3D printing to regenerate joints
3D Printing for Joint Regeneration (Bioprinting)
Bioprinting, a form of three-dimensional (3D) printing technology, allows specialists to print biodegradable materials that act as a scaffold for the patient’s own cells to create new cartilage and bone. In current joint replacement surgery, there is the risk of joint implants loosening or deteriorating over time, which could lead to the need for a replacement after 10 to 20 years.
However, in a new method being pioneered in Canada, scientists are able to use 3D printing technology to build new, custom replacement joints by laying down successive micro-layers of materials. Typically, X-ray Computed Tomography (a CT scan) is used to digitize a deteriorated joint, then a 3D printer uses porous, biodegradable materials to rebuild the shape of the patient’s bone in the form of a bone substitute. These 3D printed micro-layers create an accurate replica of the patient’s own bone structure, which supports the growth of new cells overtop.
By using an individual’s own stem cells to grow tissue on the surface of the bone substitute, cartilage and natural bone eventually grow into the porous material, which dissolves over time. This leaves only the patient’s own cartilage and bone remaining. A new joint is then formed using only the patient’s own cellular material.
While 3D printing technology holds much promise for the future of joint replacement and personalized medicine, more research is required before these new biological replacement joints can be tested in humans. There are various studies that show promise for the efficacy of 3D printing in treating arthritis and other degenerative diseases.
You can learn more about 3D printing and joint regeneration at these links: