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Printing New Cartilage: Breakthroughs in Cartilage Repair Techniques

In a major Regenerative Medicine breakthrough, researchers at Wake Forest University have developed a machine that prints 3D cartilage tissue. Cartilage is a tough, fibrous tissue that plays an important structural and supportive role in the body. It lends structure and shape to the nose and ear, for instance, as well as cushions joints such as the knee. Repairing cartilage is at times difficult because cartilage doesn’t have a ready blood supply like muscles and bones; it’s harder for your body to make more. Recovering from injury to or surgery on cartilage is often long and sometimes painful.
Now, however, making new cartilage may be as simple as printing a word document.

Using a combination of electrospinning and inkjet printing, researchers produced viable cartilage tissue in vitro. Electrospinning is a technique often utilized to make synthetic material; it involves using a charge to draw fibers out of a liquid. Inkjet printing has already been tapped for its ability to deposit fine layers of material to create a 3D structure. Alone, neither of these techniques could make viable cartilaginous tissue. By combining both of these techniques in one machine, however, the researchers were able to create useable pieces of cartilage.

Though this breakthrough shows promise for those needing cartilage repair or replacement, more studies are needed to refine the technique, as the Wake Forest team used cartilage from a rabbit’s ear to create the new tissue. Human tissue
replication is needed in order for new tissue to be used in any cartilage repair techniques. Fortunately, there are many other new Regenerative Medicine techniques that can help repair cartilage.

The physicians at the Orthohealing Center, based in Los Angeles, California, are actively engaged in studying new cartilage repair techniques. They currently utilize a number of therapies, such as platelet-rich plasma and bone marrow concentrate therapies, to help speed the repair and regeneration of cartilage.

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