Swedish researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy and Chalmers University of Technology have successfully induced human cartilage cells to live and grow in an animal model, using 3D bioprinting. The results will move development closer to a potential future in which it will be possible to help patients by giving them new body parts through 3D bioprinting. The results were recently presented in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open.
“This is the first time anyone has printed human-derived cartilage cells, implanted them in an animal model and induced them to grow,” says Paul Gatenholm, professor of biopolymer technology at Chalmers University of Technology.
Among else, Professor Gatenholm leads the research team working with the new biomaterial based on nanocellulose at the Wallenberg Wood Science Center. He has been working with Lars Kölby, senior lecturer at Sahlgrenska Academy and specialist consultant with the Department of Plastic Surgery at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
The researchers can report three positive results of the animal study:
2. Vascularisation, i.e., the formation of blood vessels, between the materials.
3. Strong stimulation of proliferation and neocartilage formation by human stem cells.
“What we see after 60 days is something that begins to resemble cartilage. It is white and the human cartilage cells are alive and producing what they are supposed to. We have also been able to stimulate the cartilage cells by adding stem cells, which clearly promoted further cell division,” says Lars Kölby.
“We now have proof that the 3D printed hydrogel with cells can be implanted. It grows in mice and, in addition, blood vessels have formed in it,” says Paul Gatenholm.
“Often, it is like this: we clinicians work with problems and researchers work with solutions. If we can come together, there is a chance of actually solving some of the problems we are wrestling with – and in this way, patients benefit from the research,” says Lars Kölby.
“With what we have done, the research has taken a step forward towards someday, we hope, being able to bioprint cells that become body parts for patients. This is how you have to work when it comes to this kind of pioneering activity: one small step at a time. Our results are not a revolution – but they are a gratifying part of an evolution!”