3D printers have recently shown promise in the medical field with a 3D printed replacement jaw and printed scaffolding for cell strictures. Now researchers have demonstrated that joint cartilage could be created using a 3D printer to help patients who have damaged knees and other joints.
Scientists 3D printed a porous cartilage structure using a polymer compound coated with cartilage cells from a rabbits ear that was finely spun into fibres. This 3D printing method allows the process to be easily controlled so that cartilage cells can integrate into the surrounding tissues.
Although the 3D printed cartilage has not been used on humans it has shown potential in testing on mice, with it developing the properties of real cartilage after eight weeks. One of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine professors involved in the research, James Yoo, says that this proof-of-concept work shows real promise for human use.
The researchers hope that in the future a patient would have an MRI scan to create a blueprint of a knee and then the matching cartilage would be made with a 3D printer.