Tissue from Cow cartilage: Bioprinting continues to marvel

  • Nimish Sany
  • 3 July , 2016

We’ve heard of bioprinting creating miracles and helping a lot of people in the process. The latest bioprinting has to offer is 3D printed tissues made from strands of cow cartilage. A team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University have successfully developed a method for 3D printing tissue patches made from cow cartilage as bio-ink that could be used as tissue patches for torn cartilages.

A damaged cartilage cannot heal itself and this presents a viable opportunity for bioprinting. Ibrahim Ozbolat, associate professor at the University and a member of the team behind the feat says, "Our goal was to create tissue that can be used to replace large amounts of worn out tissue or design patches. Those who have osteoarthritis in their joints suffer a lot. We need a new alternative treatment for this."

Attempts have been made in the past to grow cartilage using cells embedded in a polymer structure called ‘hydrogel’ which is composed mainly of water, about 90 percent, says Ozbolat. "Hydrogels don't allow cells to grow as normal. The hydrogel confines the cells and doesn't allow them to communicate as they do in native tissues," he added. According to Ozbolat this could weaken the tissue structure and even harm cell growth if toxins are released during the degradation of such hydrogels.

Credits: Ozbolat Lab

Researchers came up with a new method to replace hydrogels. Tubes with diameter ranging from three to five hundredths of an inch are synthesized from alginate- a kind of algae extract. Cartilage cells are then injected onto these tube structures. The cells develop within the scaffold without adhering to alginate and are removed easily from the tube like structures. The researchers obtained cartilage srands which were used as bio-ink for the 3D printing the tissues. The researchers put the patch in nutrient media to allow it to further integrate into a single piece of tissue. Eventually the strands fully attach and fuse together.

"Because there is no scaffolding, the process of printing the cartilage is scalable, so the patches can be made bigger as well. We can mimic real articular cartilage by printing strands vertically and then horizontally to mimic the natural architecture,” says Ozolat.

While the mechanical properties of the cartilage obtained by the researchers are not comparable to those of native tissue, it still proves to be better than the ones obtained by using hydrogels. 


Nimish Sany: I bleed my thoughts on paper. And if I cant find a paper, blogs serve the purpose just fine.

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