Cartilage is an incredibly vital component of our bodies. Unfortunately, it can be easily damaged by a variety of diseases and injuries. To replace it, researchers have turned to 3D printers.
The Herald Sun reports that researchers at St. Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne have created cartilage with the use of 3D printers. Like other 3D printed body components, the 3D printer is used to create a scaffold on which stem cells are placed. Those cells are then grown into cartilage cells which can then hopefully be used to replace cartilage in patients.
For now, we're not quite at the point where we can replace cartilage with its lab grown equivalent just yet. The researchers were only able to grow pea-sized spheres of cartilage after 28 days. With further research, however, they should be able to create full replacements.
Current technology allows doctors to replace lost cartilage, but the replacements only last a few years. With this technology, doctors should be able to create cartilage that will last just as long as the stuff you're born with.
What's more exciting about this breakthrough is that it's just the beginning. The researchers' ultimate aim is to facilitate the recreation of limbs. With stem cells and 3D printed scaffolds, the goal is to recreate muscles, bones, fat and other components needed to repair or recreate a patient's limbs. Some of the researchers even think that we're only a decade away from the kinds of treatment that we've only seen in science fiction up until now.
Like all good things, this kind of research requires money to move forward. The researchers are hoping to receive $180 million in government funding so they can continue to use 3D printers to create the limbs of the future. It's a worthy goal and one that Australia should be proud to support.[Image: Emmanuelm/Wikimedia Commons]