Feb.10, 2014

Dr. Darryl D'Lima and colleagues at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California are developing new 3D bioprinting technology that will print living cartilage into the body to provide better treatment for patients with knee injuries.

Researcher Darryl D'Lima of Scripps Clinic and his "bioprinter" | image: Eduardo Contreras

Dr. D'Lima is described by colleagues and collaborators as a person who thinks outside of the box. He's a physician and scientist who uses technology and innovations from many fields to address his patients' problems.

Recently, Dr. D'Lima has been developing 3D printing technology to print living cartilage into patients with knee injuries. Cartilage – the tissue which cushions knee joints – doesn't regenerate well and can cause serious pain.

Right now, doctors often advise people to deal with knee pain until an artificial joint replacement is necessary. This type of procedure is very painful and may not end problems for patients.

In hopes of providing a better alternative to traditional joint implants, he and his team set about making a 3D bioprinter to print living cartilage into people by adapting an old Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer into a 3D bioprinter. The 3D printer sprays out a mixture of cartilage progenitor cells and a liquid that congeals under ultraviolet light. It also bioprints bone cells to be deposited where the cartilage attaches to bone. The droplets that contain the living cells are one pictoliter – which is small enough to fix microscopic irregularities in patient's bone or cartilage.

Dr. D'Lima compares the process of printing into knee cartilage with filling potholes, "It would automatically fill the defect as you're printing it. You're getting a fairly good mechanical integration into the tissue, which is very difficult for us to do when we do traditional transplants." says Dr. D'Lima to U-T SanDiego. Printing into an existing knee joint ensures a better fit between new and existing cartilage than by attaching lab-grown cartilage that must be cut to fit the patient. Another advantage of 3D bioprinting directly into patients is that nothing would need to be stored on the shelf – surgeries could be done as needed.

With an aging baby boomer population and increasing obesity, knee injuries may become a problem for more people in the future. In fact, according to a report by GlobalData, the market for knee implants is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 6.8% between 2010 and 2017.

The research of Dr. D'Lima and his team has received recognition from several institutes. California's stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, awarded him $3.1 million to research the use of embryonic stem cells and artificial embryonic stem cells in generating replacement cartilage.

D'Lima expects it will take a couple of years to produce a working model of his 3D bioprinter – his current work on the 3D bioprinter aims to show proof of concept in an animal and is funded by the George Schaeffer Family Foundation.

Similar advances in 3D bioprinting are occurring around the globe. Just last month, the 3D printing BioPen prototype was handed over to researchers at the St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, and Organovo released its first 3D printed liver tissue to laboratories.

But printing 3D tissue structure remains extremely challenging. For example, printing muscle involves different types of cells and a complex network of blood vessels. Organovo sidestepped this issue for now by limiting the thickness of its liver tissue enough for blood to be defused without vessels.

D'Lima says that cartilage is easier to create using 3D bioprinting because it lacks these blood vessels. He also describes 3D bioprinting technology as "somewhat agnostic" as it has the potential to be applied to similar types of cartilage such as retinal tissue in the eye.


Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Jerry Clarke wrote at 3/12/2015 4:41:36 PM:

Great article....am putting off knee re[lacement...possibly it will be available in a few years

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