A team of researchers used 3D-printing to make the artificial tissues, which they believe will be ultimately be suitable material for implantation/ to heal athlete’s damaged joints.
Researchers from Rice University and the University of Maryland successfully engineered scaffolds that replicate the physical characteristics of osteochondral tissue – the hard bone beneath a compressible layer of cartilage that appears as the smooth surface on the ends of long bones.
When these bones are injured, from small cracks to pieces that break off, they can be really painful and can even stop athletes’ careers, also having the ability to lead to disabling arthritis.
“Athletes are disproportionately affected by these injuries, but they can affect everybody. I think this will be a powerful tool to help people with common sports injuries,” said Sean Bittner.
The researchers mimicked the tissue that slowly turns from cartilage at the surface to bone underneath. The team 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..
“For the most part, the composition will be the same from patient to patient,” Bittner said. “There’s porosity included so vasculature can grow in from the native bone. We don’t have to fabricate the blood vessels ourselves.”
For the future, the scientists aim to 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.