Hybrid device can print implantable cartilage

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 23, 2012 11:20 hrs

London, Nov 23 (IANS) A hybrid printer developed by scientists will help print 3D tissue that simplifies the process of creating implantable cartilage that could eventually be implanted into injured patients to help re−grow cartilage in specific areas, such as the joints.

The printer is a combination of two low−cost fabrication techniques: a traditional ink jet printer and an electrospinning machine, the journal Biofabrication reports.

Combining these systems allowed scientists to build a structure made from natural and synthetic materials. Synthetic materials ensure the strength of the construct and the natural gel materials provide an environment that promotes cell growth.

"This is a proof of concept study and illustrates that a combination of materials and fabrication methods generates durable implantable constructs," said James Yoo, professor at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and study author.

"Other methods of fabrication, such as robotic systems are currently being developed to further improve the production of implantable tissue constructs," added Yoo, according to a Wake Forest statement.

In this study, the hybrid system produced cartilage constructs with increased mechanical stability compared to those created by an ink jet printer using gel material alone. The constructs were also shown to maintain their functional characteristics in the lab and a real−life system.

The key to this was the use of the electrospinning machine, which uses electrical current to generate very fine fibres from a polymer solution.

Electrospinning allows the composition of polymers to be easily controlled and therefore produces porous structures that encourage cells to integrate into surrounding tissue.

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