At ETH Zürich’s Cartilage Engineering and Regeneration laboratory they have made some notable speed advancements in 3D printing of human cartilage which should lead to implantable replacements for trauma victims. Team of researchers led by Professor Marcy Zenobi-Wong’s and Matti Kesti developed a process that would enable hospitals to make a full size nose implant under 20 minutes. Any cartilage implant could be produced with nose, ear and knee implants being the ones most used in surgeries while significantly reducing the need for transplant donors.
In ETH Zürich news article, Kesti describes how this technology may revolutionise reconstructive surgery in the future:
A serious car accident results in a passenger’s nose being shattered. It is possible to reconstruct this as a 3D model on the computer. At the same time, a biopsy is performed on the patient and cartilage cells removed from his or her own body, for example from the knee, finger, ear or splinters of the shattered nose. The cells are spawned in the laboratory and mixed with a biopolymer. From this toothpaste-like suspension, a nose cartilage transplant is created using the bioprinter, which is implanted in the patient during surgery. In this process, the biopolymer is used merely as a form of shaping mould; it is subsequently broken down by the body’s own cartilage cells. After a couple of months, it is impossible to distinguish between the transplant and the body’s own nose cartilage. This procedure has significant benefits compared to traditional implants, for instance those made from silicone: the risk of the body rejecting the implant is a lot lower. A particularly crucial factor for young patients is that the cellular implant grows together with the patient, because it is controlled by the patient’s internal growth engine, as is the case for other body parts.
Here is a RuptlyTV report:
Their 3D printer is not just a simple three axis system with the single syringe attached but a very complex bioprinting medical device. They use “Bio Factory” made by RegenHu from Villaz St-Pierre, Switzerland, which is equipped with three printheads for normal viscosities, one for high viscosities and a UV lamp. The system is also equipped with a 355 nm UV-Laser for photopolymerization.
You can see more details about BioFactory in this video:
If you want to learn more about 3D printing of cartilage tissues and medical applications you can watch this 20 minute presentation from Dr. Jos Malda who talks about it at the ICRS Focus Meeting 2014 at the FIFA Auditorim in Zürich.
Cartilage. Learn to appreciate it!
With pre-clinical animal trials planned for the near future this medical 3D printing technology will hopefully help many victims of heavy injuries.