3D printing has possibly made another breakthrough in the healthcare sector. The doctors at the Columbia University Medical Center were able to print a knee meniscus with the use of a protein growth system and an environment-friendly plastic scaffold. The printed object is included in the body and the protein is turned into a knee joint. When knee meniscus is damaged, it can lead to weakening arthritis. The 3D printed implants were studied in sheep. Since the structure of the knee joint of sheep is similar to that of humans, they might be used for human knee replacement in the future.
Read Also – 5 Best 3D Printed Holiday Gift Ideas
The study was led by Jeremy Mao, DDS, PhD, who is the Edwin S. Robinson Professor of Dentistry (in Orthopedic Surgery) at Columbia University Medical Center. He said “At present, there’s little that orthopedists can do to regenerate a torn knee meniscus. Some small tears can be sewn back in place, but larger tears have to be surgically removed. While removal helps reduce pain and swelling, it leaves the knee without the natural shock absorber between the femur and tibia, which greatly increases the risk of arthritis.”
Damaged menisci can be sometimes replaced by a meniscal transplant by using tissue from cadavers or from any other part in the body. Every year, nearly 1 million meniscus surgeries are performed in the United States. But the procedure is risky and the rates of success are low.
The process that was developed by Dr. Mao required taking MRI scans of the meniscus in its unharmed form in the knee which is not damaged. Using these MRI scans, a 3D image is derived. The 3D scans are then used with a 3D printer to create a scaffold with a resolution of 10μm. Polycaprolactone material, which is used for creating surgical sutures, is also used here for printing the scaffold. It can take around 30 minutes to print a scaffold which matches the shape of the meniscus.
The scaffold contains two human proteins, transforming growth factor β3 (TGFβ3) and connective growth factor (CTGF). These factors are released by the scaffold at different times and the existing stem cells from the body are included to form meniscal tissue.
It took 4 to 6 weeks for the scaffold to regenerate the meniscus in the tests that were carried on sheep.
The clinical trials on human will start once the team is able to raise enough funds to start the printing process.
What do you think?
Do you think 3D printed knee joint will really be helpful for humans? Should this technology be used in other areas as well? Share your views in the comments below.
Image Source – biofabris.com.br
Article source – techcrunch.com