When I was in high school, I took a 3D art class where we would make and then print 3D figures and models. I never thought that I would hear that one day human cartilage could be 3D printed to help humans and that my school, Penn State would be the ones to break the barrier. The purpose behind this new technology is to help replace damaged tissue with new 3D printed tissue that is from the same person. An article on news.psu.edu explains the history and the significance of 3D printing and how it will change the medical community.
Penn State scientists 3D printed cartilage by creating large scale scaffold less tissues which are tiny tubes of algae that are between .003 – .005 inches in diameter. Then the tubes are inserted with the cartilage cells. These cells take approximately a week to grow. After they are grown, they are taken and removed from the tubes and the only thing that remains are thin strands of cartilage. Instead of ink, those strands are then used to 3D print almost anything.
This new 3D printed cartilage gives a lot of opportunity for medical advances. Eventually this technology is going to be applied to human cartilage. The fact that it is from the same person allows patients to not have to worry about finding a match. This technology allows patients to be their own source of tissue regeneration. Stem cells could then be developed into cartilage cells.
*The video above is from a scientist who summarizes how the 3D cartilage is made.