3D Bioprinting Helps Create Custom-Shaped Cartilage for Use in Surgical Procedures

A research group from the University of Alberta has identified a new approach to use 3D bioprinting technology to make custom-shaped cartilage that can be used in surgical procedures.

Adetola Adesida co-led a research team that discovered a way to use 3D printing technology to create custom-shaped cartilage for use in restorative surgeries. Image Credit: Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

The goal of the study is to make it simpler for surgeons to carefully restore the features of skin cancer patients living with nasal cartilage defects following surgery.

The team made use of an exclusively designed hydrogel—a material quite similar to Jell-O—that can be combined with cells harvested from a patient and further printed in a particular shape captured with the help of 3D imaging. In a matter of weeks, the material is cultured in a laboratory to become functional cartilage.

It takes a lifetime to make cartilage in an individual, while this method takes about four weeks. So you still expect that there will be some degree of maturity that it has to go through, especially when implanted in the body. But functionally it’s able to do the things that cartilage does.

Adetola Adesida, Professor of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta

It has to have certain mechanical properties and it has to have strength. This meets those requirements with a material that (at the outset) is 92 per cent water,” noted Yaman Boluk, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering.

The project was headed by Adesida, Boluk, and graduate student Xiaoyi Lan to make the 3D printed cartilage with the hope of offering an improved solution for a clinical issue that several patients with skin cancer face.

Every year, over three million people living in North America are being diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer. Among those, 40% will have lesions on their noses, with a number of them having to undergo surgery to remove them. Therefore, as part of the procedure, several patients might have their cartilage removed, thereby leaving facial disfiguration.

Conventionally, surgeons would prefer to take cartilage from one of the patient’s ribs and reshape it to suit the required shape and size for reconstructive surgery. However, the procedure tends to have complications.

When the surgeons restructure the nose, it is straight. But when it adapts to its new environment, it goes through a period of remodelling where it warps, almost like the curvature of the rib. Visually on the face, that's a problem.

Adetola Adesida, Professor of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta

The other issue is that you’re opening the rib compartment, which protects the lungs, just to restructure the nose. It’s a very vital anatomical location. The patient could have a collapsed lung and has a much higher risk of dying,” added Adesida.

The scientists state that their work is an instance of both regenerative medicine and precision medicine. Lab-grown cartilage that has been printed particularly for the patient can eliminate the infection in the lungs, risk of lung collapse, and extreme scarring at the site of a patient’s ribs.

This is to the benefit of the patient. They can go on the operating table, have a small biopsy taken from their nose in about 30 minutes, and from there we can build different shapes of cartilage specifically for them. We can even bank the cells and use them later to build everything needed for the surgery. This is what this technology allows you to do.

Adetola Adesida, Professor of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta

The researchers are keeping their study in progress and are currently testing if the lab-grown cartilage tends to hold its properties following transplantation in animal models. Moreover, the team has been looking forward to translating the work to a clinical trial within two to three years.

The study was financially supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Alberta Cancer Foundation, Canadian Foundation for Innovation, University Hospital Foundation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Edmonton Civic Employees Charitable Assistance Fund.

Journal Reference:

Lan, X., et al. (2021) Bioprinting of human nasoseptal chondrocytes‐laden collagen hydrogel for cartilage tissue engineering. The FASEB Journal. doi.org/10.1096/fj.202002081R.

Source: https://www.ualberta.ca/index.html

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