The new hydrogel-based cartilage is the first to match human cartilage in strength and elasticity while also remaining 3-D-printable and stable inside the body.
“We’ve made it very easy now for anyone to print something that is pretty close in its mechanical properties to cartilage, in a relatively simple and inexpensive process,” said Dr Benjamin Wiley, an associate professor of chemistry at Duke.
“Shape is a huge deal for the meniscus. This thing is under a lot of pressure, and if it doesn’t fit you perfectly it could potentially slide out, or be debilitating or painful.”
Current implants either do not match the strength and elasticity of the original cartilage, or are not biocompatible, meaning they do not support the growth of cells to encourage healing around the site.
“The current gels that are available are really not as strong as human tissues, and generally, when they come out of a printer nozzle they don’t stay put — they will run all over the place, because they are mostly water,” added Dr Wiley.