Whole-bone organ engineering using 3D bioprinting technologies

Scientists from Amber (Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research; Dublin, Republic of Ireland) have developed a 3D printing technology to print cartilage templates capable of engineering whole bone for the treatment of large bone defects and injuries.

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Sep 09, 2016
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Researchers from Amber (Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research) – a foundation co-hosted by Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland) – have recently applied a 3D printing approach to create cartilage implants that support bone regrowth. The study, recently published in Advanced Healthcare Materials, introduces the use of developmentally inspired cartilage templates, consisting of stem cells and a bioink scaffold, as an alternative to current bone grafting methods.

Bone grafting is a common procedure, with approximately 2.2-million people globally undergoing the surgery each year. At the moment bone grafts currently rely on taking bone from a healthy area from the same patient (autograft) or from a donor (allograft), to replace the infected or damaged area. However, as well as being painful and invasive, there are associated risks with these grafts, including tissue rejection and the potential spread of disease.

While alternative methods to these bone grafts do exist, for example titanium implants, a biomaterial that encourages bone regrowth would have huge benefits, particularly faster patient recovery. “While the technology has already been used to engineer relatively simple tissues such as skin, blood vessels and cartilage, engineering more complex and vascularised solid organs, such as bone, is well beyond the capabilities of currently available bioprinting technologies,” commented Daniel Kelly (Trinity College, Ireland).

The team engineered the cartilage template by combining stem cells with a supporting gamma-irradiated alginate bioink using Arg-Gly-Asp adhesion peptides. These implants were shaped to imitate a segment from the vertebral body and embedded under the skin, where they matured into fully functional, vascularized bone.

“Our research offers real hope in the future for patients with complex bone trauma or large defects following the removal of a tumour”, noted Daniel Kelly. “Our next stage of this process is to aim to treat large bone defects and then integrate the technology into a novel strategy to bioprint new knees.”

Sources: Daly AC, Cunniffe GM, Sathy BN, Jeon O, Alsberg E, Kelly DJ. 3D bioprinting of developmentally inspired templates for whole bone organ engineering. Adv. Healthc. Mater. doi:10.1002/adhm.20160018 (2016) (Epub ahead of print); http://3ders.org/articles/20160902-3d-printed-bone-breakthrough-made-by-irish-scientists-could-eliminate-the-need-for-bone-grafts.html

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