Who ever said bioengineers can't get their groove on? The Rice University team led by Antonios Mikos says otherwise with its development of a groovy method to seed sophisticated, 3D-printed tissue-engineering scaffolds with living cells to help heal injuries.
The researchers are literally carving grooves into plastic threads used to build the scaffolds. The grooves are then seeded with cells or other bioactive agents that encourage the growth of new tissue.
The strategy protects cells from the heat and shear stresses that would likely kill them in other scaffold fabrication processes. It also provides a way to layer cells that ultimately become different kinds of tissue, like bone and cartilage, in a mechanically stable platform.
The beauty of it is the 3D printer cuts the grooves into a thermoplastic, inserts the cells at the proper temperature and creates a three-dimensional implant, based on medical images, in a single process.
The research is the topic of a paper in Bioprinting .
Unlike cell-supporting hydrogel scaffolds under development at Rice and elsewhere, this process creates hard implants that would be surgically inserted to heal bone, cartilage or muscle, Mikos said. Like hydrogels, the biocompatible implants would degrade over time and leave only natural tissue.
The major innovation here is our ability to spatially load a scaffold that is 3D printed with different cell populations and with different bioactive molecules." Antonios Mikos, Rice University
Until now, 3D-printed scaffolds were generally seeded with uniform distributions of cells, he said. "If we wanted different cell populations at different points in the scaffold, we could not do that. Now we can." Related Stories
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