In situ handheld three-dimensional bioprinting for cartilage regeneration
Articular cartilage injuries experienced at an early age can lead to the development of osteoarthritis later in life. In situ three-dimensional (3D) printing is an exciting and innovative biofabrication technology that enables the surgeon to deliver tissue-engineering techniques at the time and location of need. We have created a hand-held 3D printing device (biopen) that allows the simultaneous coaxial extrusion of bioscaffold and cultured cells directly into the cartilage defect in vivo in a single-session surgery. This pilot study assessed the ability of the biopen to repair a full-thickness chondral defect and the early outcomes in cartilage regeneration, and compared these results with other treatments in a large animal model. A standardized critical-sized full-thickness chondral defect was created in the weight-bearing surface of the lateral and medial condyles of both femurs of six sheep. Each defect was treated with one of the following treatments: (i) hand-held in situ 3D printed bioscaffold using the biopen (HH group), (ii) preconstructed bench-based printed bioscaffolds (BB group), (iii) microfractures (MF group) or (iv) untreated (control, C group). At 8 weeks after surgery, macroscopic, microscopic and biomechanical tests were performed. Surgical 3D bioprinting was performed in all animals without any intra- or postoperative complication. The HH biopen allowed early cartilage regeneration. The results of this study show that real-time, in vivo bioprinting with cells and scaffold is a feasible means of delivering a regenerative medicine strategy in a large animal model to regenerate articular cartilage.