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Australian Researchers Using Bioengineering and 3D Printing to Design Better Replacement Bone Ligament Constructs

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X-ray of a scapholunate injury. [Image: Griffith University]

The most common type of wrist ligament injury occurs with the Scapholunate Interosseous Ligament (SLIL). Injuries to this particular ligament can lead to the dislocation of the lunate and scaphoid carpal bones in the hand and wrist, which can result in long-term disability; for athletes, an SLIL injury can spell the end of their career.

These injuries can be treated surgically, but the post-op prognosis for the traditional reconstruction technique is not great, as patients can end up developing severe osteoarthritis of the hand and wrist, along with functional limitations, which can cause long-term health problems and even lead to financial hardship if a person is unable to work. Typically, the surgery causes patients to lose up to a third of wrist functionality and strength.

Every  year, many Australians suffer SLIL injuries due to active lifestyles, but researchers at Griffith University are using bioengineering and 3D printing to come up with a better treatment plan for this common wrist injury.

Griffith, which has experience in 3D bioprinting, is teaming up with Gold Coast Health, regenerative medicine company Orthocell, and colleagues from the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia.

Together with these partners, Griffith Professor Randy Bindra and Professor David Lloyd, with the university’s Gold Coast Orthopaedic Research, Engineering and Education Alliance (GCORE), are working to develop a new 3D bioprinting technique for designing patient-specific replacement bone/ligament constructs.

“The ligament portion of the scaffold will be seeded with tendon cells from Orthocell, a successful Australian regenerative medicine company, and then the bone-ligament-bone construct will be matured in a bioreactor, where the cells will lay tendon along the scaffold,” explained Professor Bindra, who has a conjoint appointment with Gold Coast Health.

“The personalised matured construct will then be model tested in conditions that replicate a wrist in operation, with the work tested in Griffith’s Six degrees-of-freedom Robotic Testing Machine.

“Developing an ‘off-the-shelf’ ligament replacement with a scaffold that replicates bone and ligament will be a game-changer in sports medicine and will provide a novel alternative not only for the treatment of SLIL wrist injuries, but also other joints, while reducing the current side effects experienced by patients undergoing reconstructive surgery.”

There has been plenty of 3D printing research over the years regarding replacement bones and bone scaffolding. This particular research project, announced by the Hon. Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister for Health, has received $891,500 in funding from BioMedTech Horizons.

“The Turnbull Government is committed to improving the health services for all Australians and will continue to invest in better treatment, care and medical research,” the Minister for Health said.

“Our researchers are innovators and this investment will speed up the journey from idea to reality. These technologies have the potential to create better health outcomes for Australians, while driving investment and strengthening our economy. All Australians benefit from investment in health and medical research.”

Griffith University Professors David Lloyd and Randy Bindra were interviewed on 7 News Gold Coast and 9 News Gold Coast for their groundbreaking new treatment for common wrist injuries. [Image: Griffith University via Facebook]

The Gold Coast team is using its novel strategy to 3D print biocompatible scaffolds for personalized bone-ligament-bone grafts, and the method has already seen some success in animal studies. But Professor Bindra believes that within the next three years, the research will be able to successfully expand to human clinical trials.

“So far we have seen some very encouraging results, the implications of which could have some significant benefits for SLIL patients and also knee injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the future,” Professor Bindra said.

“The funding from BioMedTech Horizons will give our group at GCORE the ability to develop this cutting-edge technology right here in Australia.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the comments below. 

[Source: Griffith University]

 

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