Jan 21, 2019 | By Cameron

A researcher at Empa has 3D printed an ear using the polymer that gives plants their structural support: cellulose. Empa (Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt) is the German acronym for the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. We’ve previously reported on 3D printing biomedical devices with cellulose, and Erma scientist Michael Hausmann continues that research with the cellulose ear.

Hausmann explained the printing process, “In viscous state, cellulose nanocrystals can easily be shaped together with other biopolymers into complex 3-dimensional structures using a 3D printer, such as the Bioplotter.” Currently, the ear is comprised only of the cellulose and binding biopolymers, but in the future, the hydrogel will include therapeutic and/or human cells. The biopolymers will degrade over time while the human cells grow throughout the cellulose scaffold; cellulose won’t degrade but is biocompatible, with similar flexibility as cartilage.

Erma researchers are now working to integrate chondrocytes (cartilage cells) into the scaffold. “As soon as the colonization of the hydrogel with cells is established, nanocellulose based composites in the shape of an ear could serve as an implant for children with an inherited auricular malformation as for instance, in microtia, where the external ears are only incompletely developed,” Hausmann stated in the press release. “A reconstruction of the auricle can esthetically and medically correct the malformation; otherwise the hearing ability can be severely impaired. In the further course of the project, cellulose nanocrystals containing hydrogels will also be used for the replacement of articular cartilage (e.g. knee) in cases of joint wear due to, for example, chronic arthritis.”

Drugs can even be delivered from within an implant, “For instance, we can incorporate active substances that promote the growth of chondrocytes or that soothe joint inflammation into the hydrogel,” Hausmann elaborated. “It is also the mechanical performance of cellulose nanocrystals that make them such promising candidates because the tiny but highly stable fibers can extremely well reinforce the produced implant.”

Their cellulose comes from wood fibers, making it the most abundant polymer on the planet. 3D printed implants that deliver drugs and slowly dissolve are only a few years away. Keep an ear to the floor for updates.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive