3-D printed ligaments on the horizon

Posted on 20 Oct 2018 and read 1041 times
3-D printed ligaments on the horizonAccording to an article in 3D Print.com, ligament tears are becoming more common as a result of sporting activities; and in addition to being painful and debilitating, they are difficult to treat.

The current ‘remedy’ is to replace the torn ligament with tendons, but this can cause further problems later on.

Christina Salas, a scientist at the University of New Mexico, said: “Over time, the tendon itself can begin to stretch and become a ‘little relaxed’ in the joint, resulting in the earlier deficiency returning.”

Dr Salas is currently working on creating 3-D printed ligaments, which is an area she has been working on for some time, with help from students and professors at the university.

The researchers have developed a technique involving ‘electro-spinning’, which uses electric force to create fibres.

Dr Salas said: “The near-field electro-spinning technique that we have added to our bio-printer produces highly aligned fibres that replicate the ligament tissue.”

Doctors can take a CT or MRI scan of a patient’s damaged joint, allowing a replica synthetic ligament to be created by 3-D printing — a ligament that does not wear out or weaken like a natural one.

That said, the biggest challenge Dr Salas and her colleagues face is figuring out how to attach the 3-D printed ligament to the bone. She recently received a two-year $150,000 grant for the research.

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