Evaluation of 3D-Printed Polymer Constructs for Osteochondral Tissue Regeneration

Project Title: Evaluation of 3D-Printed Polymer Constructs for Osteochondral Tissue Regeneration

Project Duration: May 25 – August 1, 2015 (10 weeks), 40 hours per week.

Project Mentors

  • Primary Faculty Mentor (Name, Affiliation, website and Email/Phone):
  • Secondary Faculty Mentor (Name, Affiliation, website and Email/Phone):
  • Graduate Student/PostDoc mentors (Name, Affiliation and Email/Phone):


Project Description: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic condition characterized by the deterioration of cartilage that provides cushioning between the bones of articular joints, i.e., knees and hips. When the tissue that comprises the osteochondral (bone-cartilage) interface is damaged, the bones may directly contact each other, which results in stiffness and significant pain for patients. Total joint replacements are widely used to treat OA, however, these procedures are invasive, often resulting in damage to tissue surrounding the joint. In addition, as patient populations are becoming younger, joint replacements are not favorable options since the life of an implant is limited (10–15 years) and would require subsequent replacement. As such, a large area of biomedical research is focused towards developing tissue engineering strategies, using the patient’s own healthy cells, to yield natural tissue substitutes for damaged or diseased tissues.

In addition to the cells used for engineering tissue replacements, a significant component of any tissue engineering strategy is the biomaterial scaffold or construct that is used to support cell growth and subsequent tissue formation. Identifying an optimal scaffold for bone tissue engineering strategies has been an ongoing challenge for investigators because of the complex characteristics required for engineering bone. These scaffolds must be biocompatible, provide mechanical support, present a porous environment for nutrient flow, and be bioresorbable, yet maintain their structural integrity long enough for key cellular events to occur. Further, artificial or synthetic materials have been used for repairing damaged cartilage, however, attempts to engineer cartilage have been limited by the lack of sufficient anchoring to surrounding bone and inadequate support for mechanical loading that is required by these joints. Thus, more optimal biomaterials and scaffold designs are required for developing successful tissue replacements. We have identified polyester materials that are easily modified and readily processed into various shapes, which can be specifically tuned for various tissue applications, which would be advantageous for designing a replacement for a complex system such as the bone-cartilage interface Therefore, the goal of this work is to fabricate and characterize three-dimensional (3D) scaffold constructs for osteochondral tissue regeneration.            

REU Student Role and Responsibility: The student’s training experience will encompass the full scope of biomaterials evaluation, beginning with hands-on training in polymer processing methods, materials characterization, and scaffold fabrication using 3D printing technology. Following preparation of the scaffold materials, the student will perform an in vitro biocompatibility study to assess the materials’ cytotoxicity, which will provide additional training in aseptic technique, cell-biomaterial interactions, stem cell differentiation, and various assays to evaluate cell viability.

Expected Outcome for REU student: The proposed work is essential for advancing the development of 3D constructs designed specifically for generating osteochondral tissue replacements, which more closely mimic the characteristics and functionality of native tissues. Results obtained from the student’s project will likely contribute to a manuscript intended for submission to a journal such as Nature Materials, Biomaterials or Tissue Engineering Part A. In addition, the findings from this work may serve as a basis for a conference abstract submission at a professional society meeting such as the annual meeting of the Society For Biomaterials or the Orthopedic Research Society.

Rogers REU Poster