Lab Bio-Prints Living Human Cartilage
Biloine W. Young • Fri, May 16th, 2014
In a major step forward researchers have succeeded in creating living, human cartilage that they grew on a laboratory chip. This development brings them closer to their ultimate goal which is creating replacement cartilage for patients with osteoarthritis. The process used bioprinting technology.
Leader of the research group is Rocky Tuan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He said that creation of the artificial cartilage required three main elements: stem cells, biological factors to help the cells grow into cartilage, and a scaffold to give the tissue its shape. He said that his team’s process involved the extrusion of thin layers of stem cells embedded in a solution that retains its shape and provides the growth factors.
“We essentially speed up the development process by giving the cells everything they need, while creating a scaffold to give the tissue the exact shape and structure that we want,” Tuan explained.
At present, the researchers are working to combine their 3D printing method with a nanofiber spinning technique they developed earlier. They hope combining the two methods will provide a more robust scaffold and allow them to create artificial cartilage that even more closely resembles natural cartilage. The ultimate vision is to give doctors a tool they can thread through a catheter to print new cartilage right where it’s needed in the patient’s body.
Tuan notes that artificial cartilage built using a patient’s own stem cells could offer enormous therapeutic potential. “We hope that the methods we’re developing will really make a difference, both in the study of the disease and, ultimately, in treatments for people with cartilage degeneration or joint injuries,” he said. “Ideally, we would like to be able to regenerate this tissue so people can avoid having to get a joint replacement, which is a pretty drastic procedure and is unfortunately something that some patients have to go through multiple times.”