Imagine printing a picture on a piece of paper, and printing over it repeatedly such that the picture ‘grows’ out of the paper and into a three-dimensional structure. Researchers from University of California, San Diego and collaborators from Zhejiang University did that, but with biocompatible polymers instead of regular ink to form complex three-dimensional scaffolds. The researchers can then inject living cells into these scaffolds to create artificial organs.
For many people with severely torn ligaments or knee replacements, the ability to run and jump as though they have never been injured before remains a dream. Tissue engineering might lead to the day when damaged cartilage can simply be replaced with synthetic materials that resemble human tissue, giving injured joints new life. In an article published last week in Nature, that day comes closer when a team of eight scientists reported the synthesis of a novel hydrogel that is extraordinarily strong, stretchable and capable of self-healing.