3D Printing of cells enables to produce ligaments and tendons

Robby Bowles – Image via Univ of UTAH

Replacement tissues without additional surgeries is still an issue in a great number of medical environments. Sometimes, medical experts have to use tissue from other sites which reveal thereafter, their own problems.

Engineers from the University of Utah may have found the ideal solution in a new technique. After two years of R&D, the new technique consists in 3D Printing of cells.  Scientists harvest stem cells from a patient’s body and 3D print them on a layer of hydrogel to form a tendon or ligament which would later grow in vitro in a culture before being implanted.

Given the fact that such type of tissue comprises cells in complex patterns, the process remains quite complicated. For instance, cells that make up the tendon or ligament must then gradually shift to bone cells so the tissue can attach to the bone.

This is a technique in a very controlled manner to create a pattern and organizations of cells that you couldn’t create with previous technologies,” Robby Bowles, co-author of the paper along with former U biomedical engineering master’s student, David Ede, says of the printing process. “It allows us to very specifically put cells where we want them.

Researchers used a 3-D printer from Carterra typically used to print antibodies for cancer screening applications. But Bowles’ team developed a special printhead for the printer that can lay down human cells in the controlled manner they require. To prove the concept, the team printed out genetically-modified cells that glow a fluorescent color so they can visualize the final product.

Currently, replacement tissue for patients can be harvested from another part of the patient’s body or sometimes from a cadaver, but it may be of poor quality. Spinal discs are complicated structures with bony interfaces that must be recreated to be successfully transplanted. This 3-D-printing technique can solve those problems.

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Yosra K.

Passionate about new technologies, I discovered 3D printing through different professional experiences. Aware of the importance of this technology for today's and tomorrow's markets, it is with great pleasure that I share the latest news and analysis related to it, so that you in turn, can take advantage of it. #Staytuned #3DAdept