3D-printed silk bioink shows potential for knee meniscus repair


At the intersection of medical biotechnology and additive manufacturing, a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati and West Bengal University of Animal and Fisheries Sciences, Kolkata has pioneered a path towards innovative knee injury treatments. Their work, which combines cutting-edge 3D printing technology with specially formulated silk-based bioinks, has the potential to change the paradigm in how knee injuries are researched and treated.

This approach focuses on the knee meniscus, an important fibrocartilaginous structure that is critical to knee joint stability. This knee component is challenging to operate on and is often prone to tears and injuries that require invasive surgery to repair. Traditional treatment methods, such as open surgery and tissue resection, pose significant challenges and may not always produce satisfactory results, especially in the setting of severe tears or chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis. Because of these obstacles, the result is often a post-operative compilation and lengthy recovery time.

3D bioprinted meniscus. (Photo credit: Biman B Mandal)

Professor Biman B. Mandal and his team aim to address these challenges by developing and 3D bioprinting customized bioinks specifically designed for knee meniscal tissue engineering. This unique combination of silk-based materials, composed of silk fibroin methacrylate, gelatin methacrylate, and polyethylene glycol dimethacrylate, is inspired by India’s rich silk clothing heritage and is designed to improve tissue engineering applications , especially in terms of meniscal regeneration.

A key innovation is the bioink’s ability to maintain a gel-like consistency during the 3D printing process, ensuring extremely accurate layer-by-layer deposition of the knee’s meniscal structures. By incorporating stem cells derived from human platelet-rich plasma into the bioink, the researchers ensured the presence of fibrocartilage cells (as old stem cells will mature into new fibrocartilage cells), which are responsible for meniscal tissue repair and regeneration. main cell types.

To ensure that the bioink could handle the stress of exercise and loading and not cause adverse reactions in the body, Mandal and his team conducted thorough testing, including simulating repetitive knee movements and assessing immune responses in animal models. Impressively, the bioink was able to withstand mechanical stress and elicit zero negative immune responses, allowing further preclinical evaluation before testing on actual patients.

Prof. Mandal and Prof. Ashutosh Bandyopadhyay. (Photo credit: Biman B Mandal)

Looking forward, the research team hopes this project will propel them into a future where their silk-based bioink formulation becomes a standard treatment option for knee meniscal injuries, providing a minimally invasive alternative to traditional surgery. By leveraging 3D printing technology and tapping into the regenerative potential of stem cells, their goal is to provide patients with reliable, patient-specific solutions to promote tissue healing and preserve knee joint function.

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