3D-printed tissues to heal bone & cartilage helps injuried athletes

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Bioscientists are moving closer to 3D-printed artificial tissues to help heal bone and cartilage typically damaged in sports-related injuries to knees, ankles, and elbows. 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 student Sean Bittner from Rice University holds a 3D-printed scaffold created to help heal osteochondral injuries. The initial study is a proof-of-concept to see if printed structures can mimic the gradual transition from smooth, compressible cartilage to hard bone at the end of long bones. Image: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University 

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 embedded 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. 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 additive manufacturing to fabricate what they believe will eventually be a suitable material for implantation. (The results are reported in Acta Biomaterialia). “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.

For the most part, the composition will be the same from patient to patient. There’s porosity included so vasculature can grow in from the native bone. We don’t have to fabricate the blood vessels ourselves.”

-Sean Bittner

The projects’ future 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.

Sean Bittner shows a sample of a 3D-printed scaffold that may heal osteochondral injuries of the kind often suffered by athletes. Image: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

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.”

-Antonio Mikos, Bioengineer

Co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate student Brandon Smith, postdoctoral researcher Luis Diaz-Gomez, undergraduate Carrigan Hudgins, Anthony Melchiorri, associate director of the Biomaterials Lab, and David Scott, the Noah Harding Professor of Statistics; and John Fisher, CECT director and Fischell Family Distinguished Professor and chair of the University of Maryland’s Fischell Department of Bioengineering. Mikos is the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, of chemistry and of materials science and nanoengineering.
The National Institutes of Health and the RegenMed Development Organization supported the research. Click here to read the Abstract and get access to the document.

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Source: Mike Williams, Rice University News and Media 3D-Printed tissues may keep athletes in action https://news.rice.edu/2019/03/28/3d-printed-tissues-may-keep-athletes-in-action/ published on Mar28 and re-edited by João Andrade on Mar30, 2019;

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