Griffith uses 3D bio-printing to design personalized replacement bone for SLIL wrist injuries
A recent 3D printing project by researchers at Australia’s Griffith University should improve the lives of people suffering from one of the most common wrist ligament injuries. In an effort to raise the chances of recovery from Scapholunate Interosseous Ligament (SLIL) injury, the team is making use of 3D printing technology and bio-engineering to develop replacement bone/ligament constructs. These constructs will be personalized for specific patient’s wrists.
The project is being carried out by Gold Coast Health and Griffith’s Professor Randy Bindra, along with Professor David Lloyd from Gold Coast Orthopaedic Research, Engineering and Education Alliance (GCORE), as well as colleagues from Orthocell and the Universities of Queensland and Western Australia. We've reported before on Griffith University's commitment to 3D printing, when it announced the construction of a new AM facility to be completed sometime in 2019.
SLIL injuries often involve dislocation of important scaphloid and lunate bones, and are currently treated surgically, but these procedures often leave patients with a poor prognosis. Patients can lose up to a third of their wrist functionality and strength, as well as developing severe hand/wrist osteoarthritis, which impairs long-term health and imposes substantial economic burden. In the case of athletes, the injury can mean the end of their career, and it can even lead to permanent disabilities
The researchers' technique will go some way to improving this situation, by developing 3D printed bio-compatible scaffolds that are personalized to an individual’s wrist area. These scaffolds are used to grow fresh ligament and bone tissue, which will repair the area in a much more effective way than previous surgical interventions. The scaffold will be seeded with tendon cells provided by Orthocell, which is one of Australia’s leading regenerative medicine companies.
''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,'' says Professor Bindra. ''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.''
Animal testing of the bio-printing technique has so far proved successful, and Professor Bindra is expecting the research to expand into human clinical trials within the next three years. The same basic technique could also be used for the treatment of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in the future.
Funding of around AU$900,000 for this research was provided by the Australian federal government, through the AU$35 million BioMedTech Horizons program. This is intended to increase the number of biotechnology and medical technology innovations being developed and commercialized in the country. Other projects that will be receiving support through this program include Allegra Orthopaedics’ cervical interbody fusion device. This 3D printed synthetic spinal cage is being developed in collaboration with the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, Boron Molecular, and Sabre Medical. Another Australian 3D printing innovation is PoreStar, which is a novel porous polyethylene material for the production of 3D printed cranio-maxillo-facial implants. This product is being developed by the Victoria-based bio-technology company Anatomics, with support from BioMedTech Horizons.