Over one million surgical procedures in the United States each year involve bone and cartilage replacement. Head and neck reconstructions present a complex challenge requiring a high degree of precision in implant fabrication. Immunological complications, donor infectious diseases, premature transplant resorption, and lack of donor material further strain these procedures. Consequently, autologous tissue is considered the primary option, despite limited supply, donor site morbidity, and significant surgical time to generate an appropriately shaped implant. The use of pre-shaped prosthetic implants is common, but can be complicated due to higher infection rates and eventual protrusion of implants at the site of the procedure. As such, improved tissue engineering of a customized 3D scaffold to anchor cells and permit nutrition and gas exchange is necessary for ultimate formation of new tissue in the shape of the polymer material.
University of Michigan researchers have made the discovery that industrial design and manufacturing techniques, such as injection molding, can be used to create detailed, three-dimensional living tissues. The invention features methods of making living tissue constructs with a predetermined shape by providing a negative 3D mold and introducing hydrogel-suspended isolated tissue precursor cells. The living tissue construct is solidified by gel formation, removed from the mold, and then can be directly implanted, or cultured in vitro to allow the cells to grow within the construct. This technology can incorporate widely diverse cell and hydrogel composition for a variety of applications.
Applications and Advantages
- Tissue engineering to create detailed, 3D living tissues
- Bone and cartilage grafts
- Reduced manufacturing steps needed to prepare precise, 3D biological tissues
- Increased uniformity of cell seeding throughout the construct
- Increased efficiency of cell containment within the construct.