Sean Bittner holds a 3D-printed scaffold created to help heal osteochondral...
Sean Bittner holds a 3D-printed scaffold created to help heal osteochondral injuries.
Source: Jeff Fitlow

3D printed tissues may keep athletes in action

Scientists at Rice University and the University of Maryland reported their first success at engineering scaffolds that replicate the physical characteristics of osteochondral tissue – basically, hard bone beneath a compressible layer of cartilage that appears as the smooth surface on the ends of long bones.

Injuries to these bones, from small cracks to pieces that break off, can be painful and often stop athletes’ careers in their tracks. Osteochondral injuries can also lead to disabling arthritis. The gradient nature of cartilage-into-bone and its porosity have made it difficult to reproduce in the lab, but Rice scientists led by bioengineer Antonios Mikos and graduate student Sean Bittner have used 3D printing to fabricate what they believe will eventually be a suitable material for implantation. “Athletes are disproportionately affected by these injuries, but they can affect everybody,” said Bittner, a third-year bioengineering graduate student at Rice, a National Science Foundation fellow and lead author of the paper. “I think this will be a powerful tool to help people with common sports injuries.”

Photo
The 3D-printed scaffold may someday help heal osteochondral injuries of the kind often suffered by athletes.
Source: Jeff Fitlow

The key is mimicking tissue that turns gradually from cartilage (chondral tissue) at the surface to bone (osteo) underneath. The Biomaterials Lab at Rice printed a scaffold with custom mixtures of a polymer for the former and a ceramic for the latter with imbedded pores that would allow the patient’s own cells and blood vessels to infiltrate the implant, eventually allowing it to become part of the natural bone and cartilage. “For the most part, the composition will be the same from patient to patient,” Bittner said. “There’s porosity included so vasculature can grow in from the native bone. We don’t have to fabricate the blood vessels ourselves.”

The future of the project will involve figuring out how to print an osteochondral implant that perfectly fits the patient and allows the porous implant to grow into and knit with the bone and cartilage.

Mikos said the collaboration is a great early success for the Center for Engineering Complex Tissues (CECT), a National Institutes of Health center at Maryland, Rice and the Wake Forest School of Medicine developing bioprinting tools to address basic scientific questions and translate new knowledge into clinical practice. “In that context, what we’ve done here is impactful and may lead to new regenerative medicine solutions,” Mikos said.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

3D printing promotes tissue engineering

3D printing promotes tissue engineering

Researchers have demonstrated the viability of 3D-printed tissue scaffolds that harmlessly degrade while promoting tissue regeneration following implantation.

3D printing to aid tissue replacement

3D printing to aid tissue replacement

Researchers look to a future someday in which doctors can hit a button to print out a scaffold on their 3D printers and create custom-made replacement skin, cartilage, or other tissue for their patients.

Gel instrumental in bioprinting tissues

Gel instrumental in bioprinting tissues

Researchers at Penn State have developed a supportive gel that allows for printing of complex shapes using cell aggregates.

Silk improves bioink for artificial organs

Silk improves bioink for artificial organs

Researchers mechanically reprocess silk into a biologically compatible component of bioinks that improves the structural fidelity of 3D-printed hydrogels containing cells for use in drug development and regrowing lost or damaged body

The heat is on for building 3D artificial organ tissues

The heat is on for building 3D artificial organ tissues

Radiator-like fluid systems adjust the genetic wiring inside human liver cells in preliminary work toward artificial organ-tissue engineering.

Oxygen-releasing bioink for bioprinting

Oxygen-releasing bioink for bioprinting

Researchers have developed an oxygen-releasing bioink that may be useful in 3D printing bioengineered cell constructs.

3D printing heart cells from stem cells

3D printing heart cells from stem cells

Scientists have shown that 3D printing can be used to control stem cell differentiation into embryoid bodies that replicate heart cells.

Lego-inspired 3D printed soft tissue bricks

Lego-inspired 3D printed soft tissue bricks

Researchers have developed a tiny, 3D-printed technology that can be assembled like Lego blocks and help repair broken bones and soft tissue.

Sugar: Sweet way to 3D print blood vessels

Sugar: Sweet way to 3D print blood vessels

Scientists have developed a way of using laser-sintering of powdered sugars to produce highly detailed structures that mimick the body’s intricate, branching blood vessels in lab-grown tissues.

Popular articles

Subscribe to Newsletter