The printing of three-dimensional tissue has taken a major step forward with the creation of a novel hybrid printer that simplifies the process of creating implantable cartilage
The printer has been presented Nov. 22, in IOP Publishing’s journal Biofabrication, and was used to create cartilage constructs that could eventually be implanted into injured patients to help re-grow cartilage in specific areas, such as the joints.
The printer is a combination of two low-cost fabrication techniques: a traditional ink jet printer and an electrospinning machine. Combining these systems allowed the scientists to build a structure made from natural and synthetic materials. Synthetic materials ensure the strength of the construct and natural gel materials provide an environment that promotes cell growth.
In this study, the hybrid system produced cartilage constructs with increased mechanical stability compared to those created by an ink jet printer using gel material alone. The constructs were also shown to maintain their functional characteristics in the laboratory and a real-life system.
The key to this was the use of the electrospinning machine, which uses an electrical current to generate very fine fibres from a polymer solution. Electrospinning allows the composition of polymers to be easily controlled and therefore produces porous structures that encourage cells to integrate into surrounding tissue.