Somewhere in Sweden, a few lab mice have human cartilage cells living and growing within their bodies. A team of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and Sahlgrenska Academy used a CELLINK 3D bioprinter to make hydrogel out of human-derived cartilage cells. They then implanted the gels into six-week-old mice and found "something that begins to resemble cartilage" after 60 days. The researchers are working towards being able to use 3D bioprinting to create body parts for patients who need them. While they're far from achieving that goal, this particular experiment proves that it's a possibility in the future.
By adding stem cells to stimulate the cartilage cells' growth, the hydrogel successfully led to human cartilage tissue and even formed blood vessels. Team leader Professor Paul Gatenholm said:
"We now have proof that the 3D printed hydrogel with cells can be implanted. It grows in mice and, in addition, blood vessels have formed in it.
With what we have done, the research has taken a step forward towards someday, we hope, being able to bioprint cells that become body parts for patients. This is how you have to work when it comes to this kind of pioneering activity: one small step at a time. Our results are not a revolution -- but they are a gratifying part of an evolution!"
PRS Global Open published the team's paper if you want to read all the details. But you can see the cartilage growing in the mice in the images below.