Hustline news(correspondent Wang Yifan) The most recent progress in osteochondral defect regeneration by using 3D printed biomaterials, made by HUST-Advanced Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Center (led by Professor Zhang Shengmin), was newly published online in Biomaterials, the top journal in the field. Dr. Du Yingying and Dr. Liu Haoming are the co-first authors, and Professor Zhang at HUST and Professor Antonios G. Mikos at Rice University are the co-corresponding authors. Professor Wang Jianglin, associate professor Ma Jun and Dr. Yang Qin also participated in this work.
The research findings have three highlights: First, 3D printing specialized biomaterial with independent intellectual property was reported; Second, with 3D printing technology, a complex scaffold which mimicked the structure of osteochondral unit was built; Third, the biomimetic scaffold can regenerate the complex osteochondral defect without any preset living cells and growth factors, which is the most important, as products without living cells and growth factors are more likely to be approved by FDA and CFDA, thus laying the foundation for the rapid transformation of the technology.
More than 10 years ago, when the wave of 3D manufacturing was not formed, Professor Zhang Shengmin led his team to actively grasp the world trend of science and technology development, launched the research in 3D printing technology for biomedical applications in advance, and achieved a series of key intellectual property in the specialized biomaterials for 3D printing. In 3D printing history, HUST rapid prototyping team has built its leading status in this field, especially in large size manufacturing equipments and complex parts, and made a lot of creative contribution. However, there was still no big breakthrough in the field of 3D bio-printing around the world. Since 2004, Professor Zhang’s team has been actively thinking about how to transform the strong general technology and discipline basic of HUST in rapid prototyping to the unique advantages of 3D bio-printing. The research found that the lack of suitable 3D printing specialized biomaterials was the technical bottleneck which restricted the development of 3D bio-printing. This is similar to the experience in laser printing field in our country. The technical bottleneck is not for the manufacture of printers, but for the toner technology is controlled by a few foreign companies. Such bio-toner is especially scarce in 3D bio-printing field. Inspired by the fine structure and highly ordered hierarchical characteristics of biological tissues and system, the team proposed and developed a series of "micro/nano bio-bricks and microspheres", "bio-ink", and relevant fabrication technology, which have led to more than 20 China patents to be authorized. These microspheres and micro/nano building units can further carry live cells, drugs and growth factors. The above-mentioned concepts and intellectual property were 7-10 years earlier than similar work in the world. At present, the series of 3D printing specialized biomaterials developed by Professor Zhang’s team have been transformed to industry and mass production has been achieved.
Based on the above inventions and transformation，the team has also made important progress in the frontier basic research of 3D printing specialized biomaterials, which was published in “ACS Nano”, “Biotechnology Advance” and other top journals, some results were also selected as the front cover stories by “Advanced Healthcare Materials” and “Nanoscale” and so on.
The findings recently published in "Biomaterials" by the team challenged the worldwide problem of osteochondral regeneration. By the combination of selective laser sintering technology and gradient microsphere 3D printing specialized biomaterial with complete independent intellectual property，they have produced a multi-layered biomimetic scaffold for osteochondral defect，with the continuous gradient microsphere as the construction unit. The biological safety evaluation and animal model study have been finished and high quality of regeneration of comprehensive osteochondral defect has been achieved, which shows great potential in clinical transformation.