Bioengineers from the University of Connecticut (UConn) have developed a new handheld 3D bioprinter for treating musculoskeletal Injuries.
According to UConn School of Dental Medicine associate professor Dr. Ali Tamayol, the bioprinter developed by him could enable surgeons to deposit scaffolds – or materials to help support cellular and tissue growth – directly into the defect sites within weakened skeletal muscles.
“The printer is robust and allows proper filling of the cavity with fibrillar scaffolds in which fibers resemble the architecture of the native tissue.”
According to Tamayol, the scaffolds from the bioprinter adhere precisely to the surrounding tissues of the injury and mimic the properties of the existing tissue – this eliminating the need for any suturing.
Current methods for reconstructive surgery have been largely inadequate in treating volumetric muscle loss.
This is why 3D printing is emerging as an up and coming solution to help reconstruct muscle.
Dr. Indranil Sinha, a plastic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard joined Tamayol in this research study.
With years of expertise in treating muscle injuries, Sinha says that a good solution currently does not exist for patients who suffer volumetric muscle loss:
“A customizable, printed gel establishes the foundation for a new treatment paradigm can improve the care of our trauma patients.”
Existing 3D bioprinting technology is not without its problems. Implanting the hydrogel-based scaffolds successfully requires a very specific biomaterial to be printed that will adhere to the defect site.
While 3D bioprinted scaffolds mimicking skeletal muscles have been created in vitro, they have not been successfully used on an actual subject.
Tamayol has however successfully fixed that problem by printing gelatin-based hydrogels known as ‘bioinks’.
These bioinks have proven to be effective in adhering to defect sites of mice with volumetric muscle loss injury.
According to the university, the mice have shown a significant increase in muscle hypertrophy following Tamayol’s therapy.
“This is a new generation of 3D printers than enables clinicians to directly print the scaffold within the patient’s body,” says Tamayol.
“Best of all, this system does not require the presence of sophisticated imaging and printing systems.”
Image and content: UConn School of Dental Medicine