Researchers are 3D printing the meniscus out of hydrogels


A damaged meniscus is hard to repair or replace.

As Lauren Dubinsky wrote of researchers working at Duke University to replicate the meniscus, “historically it has been a challenge to create recipes for hydrogels that have the same strength as human cartilage and are 3-D printable.”

Researchers are not there yet but are getting close.

Benjamin Wiley, Ph.D., an associate professor of chemistry at Duke, said in a statement, We’ve made it very easy now for anyone to print something that is pretty close in its mechanical properties to cartilage in a relatively simple and inexpensive process.”

In their attempt to create cartilage strong enough to form a meniscus, the researchers combined a stiff hydrogel and a second formulation of a softer hydrogel and used that mixture to create a substance that resembles human cartilage. An ingredient called nano particle clay was added to make it 3-D-printable. The team then took a CT scan of a plastic model of a knee and used the information to 3-D print new menisci from the hydrogel mixture.

They reported that the entire process from the time of the CT scan to the finished 3-D printed menisci took only about a day. The 3-D printer that was used cost $300.

“This is really a young field, just starting out,” said Wiley. “I hope that demonstrating the ease with which this can be done will help get a lot of other people interested in making more realistic printable hydrogels with mechanical properties that are even closer to human tissue.”