By Shanie Phillips | Inside 3DP
Arthritis, or severe joint pain, affects 52.5 million US adults. That’s more than 1 in 5 people affected. Despite the commonness of the condition, current artificial joint solutions are far from ideal, so many sufferers reside with the pain for as long as possible before opting for surgery. Fortunately, a team of researchers at the University of Toronto hopes to change this by making bioprinted regenerative joints a possibility within a few years.
The team, led by Dr. Rita Kandel, Chief of Pathology at Mount Sinai Hospital and Director of the Collaborative Program in Musculoskeletal Sciences at the University of Toronto, is working on the multidisciplinary collaborative project with researchers at various other universities in Ontario. The project aims to create biological joint replacements that will serve as much better alternatives to the current metal and plastic-based replacements used by patients.
According to Kandel, current solutions are synthesized from metals and plastics that can disintegrate and erode within years. This doesn’t provide a viable long-term or necessarily safe option. Her team hopes to revolutionize alternative joint solutions by using 3D printing to construct biological joints comprised of a patient’s own cells.
“Currently, if you damage your joint, there is no good way to repair it,” says Kandel. “Metal and plastic doesn’t belong in the body and cannot repair itself. By generating a biological implant using the individual’s own cells, it will reconstruct a normal, native joint surface.”
“I believe it’s the way of the future,” she added.
How does it work?
Kandel and her team begin by X-raying the damaged joint. These images are then used to determine which locations a 3D printer will deposit porous material into that will reconstruct the shape of the bone in the form of a bone substitute that matches the exact shape and size of the patient’s real bone. The substitute is also capable of supporting growth of new cells and formation of cartilage. The team then integrates cartilage to the top surface of the bone substitute, which enables real bone to grow within it. The substitute eventually degrades, leaving behind a new fully-formed area of bone and cartilage.
The team estimate that clinical trials will be possible within the next five years.
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