Researchers from China are hoping to improve medical outcomes for patients dealing with knee joint issues. Their recent study, ‘Biomechanically, structurally and functionally meticulously tailored polycaprolactone/silk fibroin scaffold for meniscus regeneration ,’ outlines their recent study.
Meniscus deficiency is a disease of the knee joints, which can also develop further into osteoarthritis—a degenerative disease that may continue to worsen and cause pain. The authors note that fixing the meniscus can be fraught with difficulties, with today’s most common techniques being meniscus suture, partial or total meniscectomy, and allograft transplantation.
In the hopes that bioprinting could make sweeping changes in the area of regeneration, they have developed a new meniscus scaffold made out of polycaprolactone (PCL)/silk fibroin (SF). Such techniques may be effective, but unfortunately do not ward off osteoarthritis. Allograft transplantation may work also, but research shows that over time results are still shown to be ‘dissatisfactory and uncertain.’
“Also, none of the commercial implants can perfectly restore or permanently replace the natural meniscus tissue, effectively solve the symptoms after meniscectomy, and prevent degenerative cartilage diseases,” state the researchers. “In complex meniscus injuries, the inability of surgical intervention to recover the structural, biomechanical, and functional properties of meniscus remains a great challenge.”
While PCL has been used previously in 3D printing, most studies or experimentation have not been related to strengthening mechanical properties; however, the researchers theorized that PCL could offer the potential for ‘robust’ mechanical properties as well as biomimetic structures. The downside could be ‘risk of attrition of articular cartilage and lack of biological functional bionics.’
Biomimetic meniscus scaffolds were created on a 3D Bioplotter.
“The pre-created γ-crosslinking network not only provided a preliminary supporting structure for the material system, but also affected the distribution and size of the new physical cross-linker β sheet domains, which contributed to the strength, elasticity, and stability of the SF sponge,” stated the researchers.
As the PS scaffolds begin to show signs of degradation, the researchers noted both slow degradation of PCL as well as more rapid degradation of SF scaffolds. The ratio between samples demonstrated a balance between biomechanical properties, matching the new meniscus.
“With the advantages of biomimetic architecture, SMSC recruitment ability, and excellent biomechanical characteristics, the scaffold provided an excellent microenvironment for SMSC recruitment, retention, proliferation, differentiation, and ECM production,” concluded the researchers. “Furthermore, the scaffold displayed superior biomechanical properties and excellent anisotropic meniscus regeneration and chondroprotection.
“Compared with traditional cell-based therapies, the current study provides a novel approach for one-step meniscus repair and regeneration with the advantages of reduced cost and avoiding secondary operation. Thus, the PS-L7 scaffold developed in the current study exhibits tremendous potential for clinical translation in meniscus tissue engineering.”
The meniscus has been the center of other studies related to 3D printing, from 3D printed implants to help with recovery from sports injuries to fabrication of menisci in outer space . What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com .