Georgia Tech’s Hollister Lab has made significant strides in 3D printing for soft tissue engineering, utilizing architected auxetics to enhance flexibility by 300 times. This development is crucial in biomedical applications, including patient-specific airway splints made from the biocompatible polyester polycaprolactone (PCL). Despite PCL’s stiffness, the lab has innovatively incorporated auxetic properties into it.
Auxetic materials, characterized by a negative Poisson’s ratio, expand laterally when stretched longitudinally, and contract laterally when compressed, unlike common materials with a positive Poisson’s ratio. This unique property makes auxetics ideal for biomedical uses, as they can adapt to changing body sizes and shapes. The team, led by Jeong Hun Park, achieved this by designing 3D-printed structures with tiny, right-angled struts, resembling miniature skyscrapers.
The auxetic design’s flexibility, strength, and permeability were tested using cube-shaped structures. These properties are particularly valuable in developing biodegradable breast reconstruction implants that mimic the biomechanics of native breast tissue. The implants, designed to degrade and be replaced by native tissue, promise a new era in reconstructive surgery.
The lab’s work extends beyond breast implants. They’re exploring cardiac regeneration applications and have even developed an auxetic version of pediatric tracheal splints that can grow with patients. This versatility underscores the potential of 3D printed auxetic materials in various medical applications and such research could open new avenues for patient-specific treatments and regenerative medicine.
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