Creating New Compounds For 3D Printed Medical Devices

A new biomaterial company,  FibreTuff, has announced plans to begin manufacturing cellulose-based biomaterials that are biocompatible, absorbable, and nondegradable for Class I and II medical devices. The company’s PAPC ingredients can be compounded into pellets to make 3D printing filament that can be used to print a variety of medical devices and implants.

“FibreTuff compounds biomaterials that contain cellulose and blends them with thermoplastics branded as PAPC (polyamide, polyolefin, and cellulose) compositions for use in Class I [and] II and eventually Class III permanent implants for the medical industry,� explained FibreTuff founder and president Robert Joyce. “We’ve now brought on partners, purchased manufacturing equipment, and now leased space in a facility located in West Unity, Ohio.�

FibreTuff’s PAPC filament can be used in 3D printers without the odors traditionally associated with the printing process. The biomaterial will also cost about 30% less for device makers in need of things like cervical spacers and other implantable devices. The material also has the huge advantage of being “radiopaque,� meaning it can be seen on an x-ray without requiring additives like other products on the market.

“You can see in an x-ray where the tissues and bone grow into the implant made with PAPC,� Joyce said. “Our FibreTuff PAPC is a hydrophilic compound that is coating friendly to support a printed circuits design and construction through an ink process by nScrypt located in Orlando, Florida. Even the specific gravity of the compound is 20% lighter than [that of] other materials currently on the market, which can translate into lower material costs to produce 3D printed parts.�

Among the other characteristics of the FibreTuff filament are that it will not dissolve inside the body and has already passed USP Class VI testing performed by NAMSA for implantation, the company reported in a news release. The filament also has a weight and composition very similar to actual human bone, which could suit it for 3D printing bones for academic use in medical school.

“The human bones that are 3D printed with FibreTuff PAPC offer similar features to an actual human experience, having good screw retention and sawing and cutting ability,� Joyce said. “Other 3D printed resins have challenges with these types of features, but we have the flexibility to print different sizes of human bone that actually resemble real human bones. A local university has been using pig and cow bones for their medical students to practice on, but we are aiming to have the students 3D print bones with FibreTuff PAPC that they can actually practice on.�

While the company officially launched operations within the last week, the company has spent the last four years not only developing the technology, but also recruiting partners and taking orders. Now that it is moving toward a new phase in sales and marketing, Joyce said that the company hopes to begin producing PAPC implants within the next 16 months.

“Approximately 16 months from now we hope to have PAPC in permanent implants for spine, trauma, and sports medicine that can show much improved osseointegration versus PEEK and metal implants,� he said. “We also hope to begin reducing the cost to produce these types of implants by 30%. We want to work with hospitals, colleges and universities, and medical device manufacturers to develop a new way to deliver education and functional tools and models to the medical market.�

3D Printed Stem�Cell Derived Neural Progenitors Generate Spinal Cord Scaffolds

A bioengineered spinal cord is fabricated via extrusion�based multimaterial 3D bioprinting, in which clusters of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)�derived spinal neuronal progenitor cells (sNPCs) and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) are placed in precise positions within 3D printed biocompatible scaffolds during assembly. The location of a cluster of cells, of a single type or multiple types, is controlled using a point�dispensing printing method with a 200 µm center�to�center spacing within 150 µm wide channels. The bioprinted sNPCs differentiate and extend axons throughout microscale scaffold channels, and the activity of these neuronal networks is confirmed by physiological spontaneous calcium flux studies. Successful bioprinting of OPCs in combination with sNPCs demonstrates a multicellular neural tissue engineering approach, where the ability to direct the patterning and combination of transplanted neuronal and glial cells can be beneficial in rebuilding functional axonal connections across areas of central nervous system (CNS) tissue damage. This platform can be used to prepare novel biomimetic, hydrogel�based scaffolds modeling complex CNS tissue architecture in vitro and harnessed to develop new clinical approaches to treat neurological diseases, including spinal cord injury.

First-ever 3D Printed Human Corneas Could One Day Treat a Leading Cause of Blindness

Scientists have 3D printed corneas for the first time in new research, offering hope to the millions of people around the world whose eyesight is affected by damage to the delicate tissue.  

Often described as the window to the eye, the cornea is a clear sheath that sits over the iris and the pupil, helping to direct light rays onto the retina. If the cornea becomes damaged, the image sent to the brain can become blurry. Currently, patients with damaged corneas can undergo transplants in serious cases, but this necessitates a donor—of which there is a significant shortage. Worldwide, some 10 million people need surgery to prevent corneal blindness, while a further 5 million people are totally blind because the tissue is damaged or diseased.

Now, a team at Newcastle University in the U.K. believes it has paved the way for an unlimited supply of corneas, using a 3D printer to create them in a lab.

The researchers took corneal stem cells from a healthy donor and mixed them together with alginate and collagen to create a printable “bio-ink.� This solution was then placed inside a simple 3D printer.

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face-eyes-stockScientists created a ‘bio-ink’ to 3D print human corneas. Getty Images

The scientists were able to print a 3D cornea in less than ten minutes. Building on previous work by the team showing stem cells can be kept alive for weeks at room temperature in a hydrogel similar to the bio-ink, the cells were shown to culture in the artificial cornea. As the corneas are easily printable, they can be created to match the size and shape of a patient’s eye. The resulting paper was published in the journal Experimental Eye Research.

“Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible,� Che Connon, Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University and the study’s lead author, commented in a statement. 

“Our unique gel—a combination of alginate and collagen—keeps the stem cells alive while producing a material which is stiff enough to hold its shape but soft enough to be squeezed out the nozzle of a 3D printer.

“Now we have a ready-to-use bio-ink containing stem cells allowing users to start printing tissues without having to worry about growing the cells separately.�  

But the technology is still far from being rolled out to patients.

“Our 3D printed corneas will now have to undergo further testing and it will be several years before we could be in the position where we are using them for transplants,� said Professor Connon.