Handheld 3D printer used to grow replacement muscle tissue
When someone suffers a loss of skeletal muscle – either through accident or disease – it can be very difficult getting new muscle to grow in its place. A new handheld device is designed to help, however, by directly depositing scaffolding within the patient's body.
We've actually been hearing a lot about "bioscaffolds" lately.
In a nutshell, they're three-dimensional pieces of biocompatible material that are implanted within the body, and that have a microstructure similar to that of the surrounding tissue. Over time, cells from that tissue migrate into the scaffold, colonizing it and reproducing. Eventually, they entirely replace the material, forming pure muscle, bone, cartilage or other tissue.
That said, pre-producing such bioscaffolds and then implanting them in muscle is quite challenging. With that in mind, scientists at the University of Connecticut developed a prototype handheld 3D printer to do the job.
It starts by depositing a gelatin-based hydrogel directly into the unwanted gap within the muscle. An integrated ultraviolet light causes that gel to cure into a bioscaffold made up of tiny muscle-like fibers, which readily adheres to the adjacent muscle tissue – no sutures are required. Muscle cells then move into the scaffolding.
In lab tests, the device proved to be effective at treating volumetric muscle loss injuries in mice.
A paper on the research, which is being led by Dr. Ali Tamayol, was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Bio Materials.
Source: University of Connecticut