Towards Bioprinted Sections of Jawbone and Gum Tissue

Many groups are working to advance the state of the art in bioprinting, seeking to engineer simpler tissue structures using a printed scaffold and cells cultured from a patient tissue sample. This example is focused on dental reconstruction:

The team are using the latest 3D bioprinting to produce new, totally 'bespoke,' tissue engineered bone and gum that can be implanted into a patient's jawbone. The approach begins with a scan of the affected jaw, prior to the design of a replacement part using computer-assisted design. A specialised bioprinter, which is set at the correct physiological temperature (in order to avoid destroying cells and proteins) is then able to successfully fabricate the gum structures that have been lost to disease - bone, ligament and tooth cementum - in one single process. The cells, the extracellular matrix and other components that make up the bone and gum tissue are all included in the construct and can be manufactured to exactly fit the missing bone and gum for a particular individual.

In the case of people with missing teeth who have lost a lot of jawbone due to disease or trauma, they would usually have these replaced with dental implants. However, in many cases there is not enough bone for dental implant placement, and bone grafts are usually taken from another part of the body, usually their jaw, but occasionally it has to be obtained from their hip or skull. These procedures are often associated with significant pain, nerve damage and postoperative swelling, as well as extended time off work for the patient. In addition, this bone is limited in quantity. By using this sophisticated tissue engineering approach, researchers can instigate a much less invasive method of bone replacement. A big benefit for the patient is that the risks of complications using this method will be significantly lower because bone doesn't need to be removed from elsewhere in the body. The approach also bypasses the problem of limited supply when using the patient's own bone. Currently in pre-clinical trials, the aim is to trial the new technology in humans within the next one to two years.



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