Scientists at Rice University, Texas and the University of Maryland, led by Sean Bittner, bioengineering graduate student at Rice, a National Science Foundation fellow and lead author of the paper, and bioengineer Antonios Mikos, have used 3D printing to create scaffolds that replicate the physical characteristics of the hard bone beneath a compressible layer of cartilage, which they hope will eventually be a suitable material for implantation. Injuries to this area, or osteochondral injuries, can spell the end of an athlete’s career, and later on severe arthritis. The challenge is going to be mirroring tissue that turns gradually from cartilage at the surface to bone underneath, and working out how to print an osteochondral implant that perfectly fits the patient and allows the porous implant to grow into and knit with the bone and cartilage.
“3D printed tissue to help with osteochondral injuries“
Bittner said: “Athletes are disproportionately affected by these injuries, but they can affect everybody. I think this will be a powerful tool to help people with common sports injuries. For the most part, the composition will be the same from patient to patient. There’s porosity included so vasculature can grow in from the native bone. We don’t have to fabricate the blood vessels ourselves.”