MakerBot 3D printer used to create tracheal cartilage

Researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have successfully created cartilage using a MakerBot 3D printer. The team made use of the technology to quickly and affordably prototype and refine the bioprosthesis, and even used it to create a low-cost bioreactor to facilitate the growth of the cells.

Tracheal damage can be caused by various injuries including blunt trauma and tumors, and it’s routinely difficult to treat. Traditional tracheal surgery methods are limited, particularly in children, by the amount of the trachea that can be removed to make room for reconstruction. If too much of the trachea were to be removed, then the level of tension on reconnected ends would be too great, resulting in potentially disastrous complications.

“Making a windpipe or trachea is uncharted territory'” said Todd Goldstein, an investigator at the Feinstein Institute. “It has to be rigid enough to withstand coughs, sneezes and other shifts in pressure, yet flexible enough to allow the neck to move freely.”

The new method tackles the problem by employing tissue engineering, in which cartilage is grown from a mixture of cells called chondrocytes, nutrients to feed the growth, and collagen to hold the whole process together. While this is an established method of making cartilage, getting it to grow into the correct shape for treatment is rather more difficult. … (read more)