Researchers are now reporting that they have found a way to produce cartilage tissue by 3-D bioprinting an ink containing human cells, and they have successfully tested it in an in vivo mouse model.
The development could one day lead to precisely printed implants to heal damaged noses, ears and knees.
“Three-dimensional bioprinting is a disruptive technology and is expected to revolutionize tissue engineering and regenerative medicine,” says Paul Gatenholm, Ph.D. “Our team’s interest is in working with plastic surgeons to create cartilage to repair damage from injuries or cancer. We work with the ear and the nose, which are parts of the body that surgeons today have a hard time repairing. But hopefully, they’ll one day be able to fix them with a 3-D printer and a bioink made out of a patient’s own cells.”
To create a new bioink, Gatenholm’s team mixed polysaccharides from brown algae and tiny cellulose fibrils from wood or made by bacteria, as well as human chondrocytes, which are cells that build up cartilage.
The printed cells also produced cartilage in a laboratory dish.
Gatenholm’s team printed tissue samples and implanted them in mice.
To boost the number of cells, which is another hurdle in tissue engineering, the researchers mixed the chondrocytes with human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow.
Previous research has indicated that stem cells spur primary cells to proliferate more than they would alone.
In addition to cartilage printing, Gatenholm’s team is working with a cosmetic company to develop 3-D bioprinted human skin.
Cosmetic companies are now prohibited in Europe from testing cosmetics on animals, so they hope to use printed skin to try out makeup, anti-wrinkling techniques and strategies to prevent sun damage.