Experts in 3D bioprinting from Chalmers University of Technology are a part of a research project and their findings are published in Nature’s Scientific Reports magazine. They used cartilage cells which were taken from patients who had knee surgery. Then, they treated these cells in a laboratory. They made them rejuvenate and turned them into cells that can be transformed into many others types of cells. The stem cells were expanded and encapsulated in a composition of nanofibrillated cellulose. Then they were printed into a structure using a 3d bioprinter. In the process, the stem cells were treated with growth factors in order to make them differentiate correctly and form cartilage tissue.
The biggest issue was to create a procedure that will allow the stem cells to survive the printing, to multiply and to achieve to form cartilage. “We investigated various methods and combined different growth factors. Each individual stem cell is encased in nanocellulose, which allows it to survive the process of being printed into a 3D structure. We also harvested mediums from other cells that contain the signals that stem cells use to communicate with each other so called conditioned medium. In layman’s terms, our theory is that we managed to trick the cells into thinking that they aren’t alone” says Stina Simonsson – the leader of the research team and an Associate professor of Cell Biology.
The cartilage is very similar to the real, human – harvested one
The interesting fact is that the 3D bioprinted cartilage formed by the stem cells is amazingly similar to human cartilage. This cartilage was given to successful surgeons with great experience to examine the artificial cartilage. They said that there is no difference in the tissue of the bioprinted and the real cartilage. Exactly like the real cartilage, the bioprinted one has type II collagen, under a microscope the cells appear to be perfectly formed and their structure is very similar to the structure of the real cartilage.
This is a big progress in medicine and in the possibility to make new cartilage tissue. In near future, patients will be able to get their own stem cells. This 3D bioprinting can be used to treat osteoarthritis, to repair cartilage damage etc. Considering the fact that one in four Swedes over the age of 45 suffer from osteoarthritis, we can say that this new procedure will be very useful.