May 29, 2017 | By Tess

A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi has made a breakthrough in the development of 3D bioprinted cartilage. The research team, led by Professor Sourabh Ghosh from the Department of Textile Technology at IIT, has successfully developed a bioink that can be used to print structures like the cartilage found in human knees.

3D bioprinting is arguably one of the most promising new avenues in the medical field, which is why every breakthrough in the technology, no matter how small, is exciting to us. A recent bioprinting announcement by the IIT, not a small feat in the least, marks the first time a bioprinted tissue has been created in an India-based lab.

A new bioink developed by a team led by Professor Sourabh Ghosh contains a high concentration of bone marrow, derived from cartilage stem cells, as well as silk proteins and a few other materials. According to the research team, the 3D printable bioink was designed to not only support cell growth, but also to ensure the long-term survival of the cells.

“The silk protein has different amino acids that closely resemble the amino acids present in human tissues," explained Ghosh. "Just like cells are surrounded by proteins inside our body, the cells in the engineered cartilage are also surrounded by bioink that has a similar composition.”

As recent tests showed, the 3D bioprinted cartilage was able to remain physically stable for a period of up to six weeks. But there is still some work to be done before anyone will reap the benefits of the 3D printed cartilage cells.

Within the field of bioprinting, knees are an important subject because the articular cartilage that surrounds and protects our knees can be easily damaged and is currently difficult (if not impossible) to repair. That is, the load-bearing capacity of our natural knee cartilage has yet to be replicated in a lab, as current lab-made cartilages (called transient cartilage) eventually turn into brittle bone cells.

Preparation of a 3D bioprinted construct

The IIT’s 3D bioprinting technology could, however, offer an alternative to this, as the team has figured out a way to transform the cartilage stem cells in the bioink into chondrocyte-like cells, which are cells that produce and maintain the extracellular matrix of cartilage.

“We have succeeded in stopping this conversion of chondrocyte-like cells or stem cells into bone cells so that they remain as stable articular cartilage,” said Ghosh. This was achieved by optimizing the bioink’s silk-gelatin composition as well as the bioprinting process itself.

In realizing the bioprinting breakthrough, the IIT Delhi team worked closely with Professor Bandyopadhyay’s developmental biology laboratory at IIT Kanpur. It was there that the researchers were able to produce a cell line made from bone marrow stem cells that retained its cell-like nature after months of culturing.

Ghosh says the next step in the research will be to implant the 3D bioprinted cartilage into animal knee joints to see if a) the cells remain stable and b) the cartilage can “integrate with the surrounding cartilage tissue.” The research could also have applications in drug delivery and pharmaceutical studies.

The research study was recently published in the scientific journal Bioprinting.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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