A research team at Canada's University of Alberta has devised a 3D bioprinting technique that allows the fabrication of custom-shaped cartilage, like nose cartilage, for use in surgical procedures. 

With this new application, researchers aim to help surgeons with a safer and easier alternative for the restoration of features among skin cancer patients, particularly those having nasal cartilage defects after their surgery.

The team presented their findings in a research article entitled "Bioprinting of human nasoseptal chondrocytes‐laden collagen hydrogel for cartilage tissue engineering," published in the recent The FASEB Journal.

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Bioprinted Hydrogel Material

The 3D bioprinted cartilage is based on a specially designed hydrogel - a jelly-like raw material - that is mixed with human cells harvested from the patient. This mixture of the hydrogel and organic material is then printed in the specific shape of the target nose cartilage based on images captured with 3D imaging. Over several weeks, the fabricated material is cultured in a lab - under controlled conditions - to become fully functional cartilage.

"It takes a lifetime to make cartilage in an individual, while this method takes about four weeks. So you still expect that there will be some degree of maturity that it has to go through, especially when implanted in the body," explains Adetola Adesida, a co-author of the study and a surgery professor at the university's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, in a press release from the University of Alberta. She adds that functionally speaking, it also does the things that natural cartilage does.

Yaman Boluk, a member of the university's Faculty of Engineering, explains that the new 3D bioprinted cartilage needs to have strength as well as certain mechanical properties, which it does in addition to the requirement that the material must have 92 percent water.

The University news release reveals that Adesida and Boluk, together with graduate student Xiaoyi Lan, led the project in the 3D bioprinted cartilage that could potentially help for the persisting problem faced by many patients experiencing skin cancer.

Researchers claim that their work is an example of both precision and regenerative medicine. They add that their lab-grown cartilage, printed specifically with biocompatible cells from the patients, eliminates the risks of lung collapse, infection, and severe scarring at the ribsite of the patient.

"This is to the benefit of the patient," Adesida explains. "From there we can build different shapes of cartilage specifically for them."

Skin Cancer in the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, citing data published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine covering the periods of 2002-2006 and 2007-2011.

Additionally, data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey suggests that every year, some 4.3 million adults in the United States face treatments for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas - forms of skin cancer - which totals to a cost of more than $4.8 billion.


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