Researchers are literally carving grooves into plastic threads used to build 3D printed tissue-engineering scaffolds with living cells. The grooves are then seeded with cells or other bioactive agents that encourage the growth of new tissue.
The strategy protects cells from the heat and shear stresses that would likely kill them in other scaffold fabrication processes. It also provides a way to layer cells that ultimately become different kinds of tissue, like bone and cartilage, in a mechanically stable platform.
The beauty of it is the 3D printer cuts the grooves into a thermoplastic, inserts the cells at the proper temperature and creates a three-dimensional implant, based on medical images, in a single process.
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