3D Printing Process in Implanting Human Ligaments

3D Printing Process in Implanting Human Ligaments

By Manufacturing Technology Insights | Friday, November 30, 2018

The idea of applying 3D printing has impacted the health care industry in a remarkable way. Emerging applications of 3D bioprinting ends the waiting for an alternative of organ transplant. Innovations span from bioprinting of cells deposited into a 3D layer to produce the desired tissue or organ. Application of 3D technology has been developed a method for bioprinting ligaments and tendons out of patient’s own cells.

Bioprinting process involves printing human tissue by taking stem cells from the patient’s own body fat. The fat is taken and printed onto a layer of hydrogel to form a tendon or ligament. Then the cells are grown in vitro in a culture before implanting in the patient. The process enables patients to receive replacement tissues without additional surgeries or having to harvest tissue from other sites.

Cells and tissues in ligaments and tendons form a complex and intricate pattern and surgeons have to face difficulties to reattach these parts in the body. The connected tissue comprises of tendons or ligaments and parts that transition into bone cells to connect with the skeletal system. Technology enables researchers to tackle the problem by letting those precisely put cells where they need them. This is one of the major breakthroughs of the experiment.

Replacement tissue for patients is harvested from another part of the patient’s body but this harvesting process sometimes delivers a poor quality result. When it comes to spinal discs, it is difficult to transplant because of spinal’s bony interfaces. The 3D bioprinting technique is able to solve these problems.

The original bioprinter was modified with special print heads for the printer that lays down human cells in a very controlled way. After conducting tests proper print out of ligaments come out. During the tests genetically modified cells that glow a fluorescent color are used to be observed by researchers. This process serves as a proof of concept for ligament and tendon printing. Even though the current set-up is tuned to musculoskeletal applications, the customized printer is capable of printing whole organs.

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