Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine used a hybrid 3D printer to fabricate implantable cartilage on the heels of printing a working kidney. (Source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)
I agree, Dave. I, too, never took a biology class in college while studying engineering. Bioengineering used to be an engineer's route to medical school. Now it should be much more than that -- an important discipline unto itself.
Every time I read a story about something that has been 3D printed - from a person's jaw to an outfit debuting at fashion week - I am more and more amazed. My fear, however, is that these 3D-printed body parts are going to backfire. How safe are they really? And how are we to know for sure?
Hi Cabe--thanks for highlighting these developments. I read your article, then some earlier reports on the Wake Forest work and others, and I'm still unclear. It seems that at least some (many?) of the promising approaches for organs involve printing a frame or scaffold roughly the size/shape of what you want, then somehow applying a tissue mixture and getting it to grow. If all goes well, you end up with the tissue you want in the geometry your want.
Where I get confused is while 3D printing the scaffold makes sense and I can see that 3D printing is enabling amazing advances, in the 2nd step it doesn't really look like printing. It is more like "applying". Although they talk about an ink-jet printer it is unclear that the 2nd step is really very selective or 3D. The photos unfortunately don't change that conclusion--they appear to be dispensing not printing.
Can you shed any more light on the process details and exactly where 3D printing is helping/enabling?
Hi Elizabeth M, I didn't have any cartilage replaced, just trimmed to lessen the chance of a future tear. Don't know if any form of artificial material was even available back then. Oh, to be 23 years old again!
Ah, I know the feeling! Due to my sporting ways over the years, I fear some kind of cartilage replacement is in my future...the joints are starting to go tweaky on me...and my father had two knees and a shoulder replaced. Good to see some of these advancements...maybe they will be ready by the time we need them!
In this case, they printed the framework and grew the rest of it. But, making the support structure is vital, only 3D printing make for an easy build of complicated forms. A few years ago, someone received a manufactured throat based on similar tech. I am sure that person is very happy now. This type of tech should be explored further and improved, without a doubt.
Anything to better our lives. Imagine, pulverized a fiber, print a new one. It will happen.
Good point, Jenn. I think it will be a long time before we see anything like this used in human surgery. Cadaver cartilage for knees is still a new field, with just a handful of doctors doing those operations. Given that, I would think that 3D-printed cartilage might be a long way off.
It's amazing how many people are now getting knee and hip replacements, Liz. And it's great that such technologies are available. A couple of generations ago, those injuries got worse and people were crippled by them. Thanks to some serious engineering innovation in the past 30 years, people can now live pretty normal lives with replacement joints.
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