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3D Bioprinting - Will the gap in treatment options for tendon and joint injuries be closed?

Expensive and long suffering - chances of complete regeneration are low! These are the prospects for ankle wear injuries. Can the possibilities of regenerative treatments with the help of 3D bioprinting help in the future?

Credit: Fraunhofer IPA Stuttgart

FC Barcelona also believes in the possibilities of regenerative medicine and, in particular, personalized implants for regenerative therapies. The research and development laboratory of the Spanish sports club FC Barcelona, Barça Innovation Hub, has joined the EU-funded "TRiAnkle" project to help test the 3D-printed ligament and tendon implants being developed in the project to regenerate natural tissue.

Tendon disorders, like the loss of articular cartilage, are common conditions - especially among the elderly, women and competitive athletes. In addition to limiting quality of life, both conditions also place a heavy burden on healthcare systems.

None of the currently applied surgical or non-surgical therapies achieve a successful long-term solution for patients, as the affected tendons and joints do not regain their full strength and functionality.

To close the gap, participants in the EU-funded TRiAnkle project are working on a breakthrough therapy for tendinopathies such as partial Achilles tendon ruptures and cartilage damage. To this end, research is underway to develop innovative personalized collagen- and gelatin-based implants that are 3D printed to promote and accelerate the regeneration of damaged tissue.

How does it works?

At Fraunhofer IGB, we formulate and develop collagen- and gelatin-based biotin for these novel regenerative concepts. Collagen and gelatin are biopolymers like those found in the body. In order for the biopolymers to be processed as biotin in a 3D printer along with growth factors and cells, they must be flowable. The challenge, therefore, is that the biopolymers must first be liquid and then solidify after printing so that they are similarly dimensionally stable to healthy tissue. Together with our colleagues at the Institute of Interfacial Process Engineering and Plasma Technology IGVP at the University of Stuttgart, we achieve this by crosslinking the biopolymers. A successful method for crosslinking is the incorporation of functional groups into the biopolymers. When activated by UV light, for example, the functions react with each other and form a stable bond. This makes the bioink solid.


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