3D Printing Living Human Cartilage Tissue

Living human cartilage tissue has successfully been created for the first time, and 3D printing technology was a big part of that success. This marks an incredible step forward for 3D printing.

Rocky Tuan, PhD, professor and executive vice chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery and the director of the Center announced the advancement for Cellular and Molecular Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

3d printing

3D printing provided a structure that can be used to recreate the shape of damaged tissue. The printing process was benign enough to cause no damage to the cells or tissue. Encouraging cells to grow into specific shapes to mimic damaged cartilage will be important for improving our understanding of joint degenerative diseases. Drug therapies can be used on the generated cartilage to observe how they impact the tissue.

A particularly compelling promise of the research is to assist soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering at University of Pittsburgh works in a partnership with Wake Forest University, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

3d printing

The structure to house the generated tissue was created using 3D DLP® technology (which stands for Digital Light Processing technology). DLP printers make use of a liquid photopolymer resins that are gentle enough for the cell solution. Each printed object is made up of layers, or slices.

The printer uses a device called a DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) that selectively exposes and hardens the photopolymer resin. The process was used to generate a matrix inside of a solution capable of supporting live cells. After the matrix has been created, cells are then added into the solution where they thrive and multiply.

The process is still in its infancy and is nowhere ready to replace non-organic joints. However, Dr. Tuan has said, “It’s very promising and looking good.” The research potential is impressive. It will be interesting to see how the process matures and what it is capable of in the future.


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