That’s right. We have the ability to 3-D print human cartilage.
The research team’s breakthrough mixes electrospinning, a method of creating synthetic, polymer-based nanoscale-fibrous materials used for implants and wound dressing, with medical inkjet printing, also called bioprinting, currently used to create tissues and organs. Each method is a viable medical process, but with shortcomings: Electrospun materials typically don’t have the ability to promote cellular growth, nor do they have the flexibility needed for cartilage replacement. And inkjet printed materials lacks the structure and strength needed to support the loads that cartilage carries.
As detailed in the medical journal Biofabrication, the Wake Forest researchers theorized that merging the two systems together could solve these problems. Their hybrid approach alternates microscopic layers of electrospun fiber and printed, living cartilage cells cultivated from rabbit ears, generating an artificial cartilage pad that is suitable for implanting. An eight-week study in mice showed that the implanted pads developed cellular structure similar to natural cartilage, while separate mechanical strength tests demonstrated that it was equivalent to natural cartilage.