Innovation in Science: 3D-Printing of Artificial Cartilage Using Laser-Based Method


TU Wien 

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A new laser-based approach has been introduced to produce artificial cartilage using 3D printing technology. 

In this approach, researchers from TU Wien printed living cells within tiny football-like spheroids.

The team is optimistic that this approach could facilitate the creation of laboratory-grown tissue that can substitute damaged human cartilage. Notably, cartilage is a robust connective tissue located in different body parts and plays a crucial role in safeguarding our joints and bones.

According to the press statement, a sophisticated 3D printing technique was employed to manufacture microscopic, porous spheres. Subsequently, these microspheres get filled with cells.

Such a feature confers multiple benefits, such as enabling the cells to blend and develop into cohesive, living tissue.

In addition to that, these minuscule spheres function as a support structure and enable the production of diverse forms.

“The biggest challenge is not cultivating cartilage cells from stem cells. Rather, the main problem lies in the fact that there’s typically limited control over the shape of the resultant tissue,” expressed Oliver Kopinski-Grünwald, a member of the study from the Institute of Materials Science and Technology at TU Wien, 

Kopinski-Grünwald further explained in the press release, “This issue also stems from the fact that such clumps of stem cells alter their shape over time and have a tendency to shrink.” 

In order to address this, a tailored laser-based 3D printing process was devised to create these microstructures which are merely one-third of a millimeter in diameter. 

The final step of the process involves distributing stem cells throughout the engraved structure.

Specialized stem cells were used in the study. These cells are predetermined to form a specific type of tissue, in this instance, cartilage tissue. These cells do not have the ability to transform into other types of tissues.

Aleksandr Ovsianikov, who leads the 3D Printing and Biofabrication team at TU Wien, stated that this method allows for the production of tissue components with evenly distributed cells and extremely high cell densities, which was unachievable with past techniques.

The trifling, cage-like structures were manufactured using 3D printing, utilized a biodegradable and biocompatible plastic.

What’s fascinating is that the plastic scaffold slowly disintegrates over several months, leaving behind only the mature tissue in its original state.

The team underscores that this methodology could be employed to fabricate various types of larger tissues, including bone.

However, before this, the team aims to tackle certain constraints. Bigger tissues, especially, necessitate the presence of blood vessels, which are not involved in the case of cartilage tissue.

“Our initial aim would be to create small, custom-made pieces of cartilage tissue that could be integrated with existing cartilage material post an injury,” uttered Kopinski-Grünwald.

“Regardless, we’ve demonstrated that our method for generating cartilage tissue utilizing spherical micro-scaffolds is essentially operational and possesses key advantages over other technologies,” added Kopinski-Grünwald in the

press release.

3D bioprinting is viewed as the next major development in medical technology. In the area of regenerative medicine, 3D bioprinting can present a significant role by creating scaffolds and structures which contribute to the repair of damaged tissues, thus assisting the natural process of healing.

The research findings have been published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

Study Abstract:

The use of cell spheroids (SPH) as building blocks has gained significant attention in biofabrication due to their ability to develop into large, high-density cell constructs. However, the composition and size of these building blocks alter over time as they mature, which influences their fusiogenic capability to form a cohesive tissue construct of a controllable size. This natural event remains a hindrance for the standardisation of spheroid-based therapies in clinical settings. We have recently demonstrated that scaffolded spheroids (S-SPH) can be created by forming spheroids directly within porous PCL-based microscaffolds manufactured through multiphoton lithography (MPL).

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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