Scientists 3D Print Crocodile Cartilage To Create Joint Implants


Microbiologists from Central Queensland University have come up with a unique idea – 3D bio-printing crocodile cartilage for stubborn joint injuries. The method called “explanting” involves a decellularization process that removes crocodile DNA before injection.

Microbiologist Dr Padraig Strappe with a croc cartilage. Photo via ABC News

Because joints are primarily composed of cartilaginous tissue that keep two interlocking hard surfaces from coming in to contact it’s difficult for them to heal after an injury due to a lack of veins supplying blood to the area. So when you damage the cartilage in between your joints it will take a much longer amount of time for them heal then if you were to say break a bone. In fact in the case of arthritis they may not even heal at all.

According to Dr. Padraig Strappe, Microbiologist at CQUniversity and leader of this research, “You are left with a hole that needs to be filled in.”

The good thing about crocodile cartilage is that it is full of a protein called proteoglycan. The protein itself is known for speeding tissue growth and crocodiles have an abundance of cartilage and proteoglycans due to the characteristic wobbling locomotion which puts pressure on their joints over the course of evolutionary history.

When you observe the movement of a crocodile you will notice that their trunk sways back and forth, especially when they are chasing prey. This kind of movement puts a lot of pressure on their rib cage, so that is where most of the proteoglycan rich cartilage is found and extracted from.

“What we’re looking for is a long-term repair to the cartilage so people can return to work and to sport much faster and they don’t have the long-term effects of inflamed joints.”

Dr Strappe attains the cartilage from a crocodile farm in Queensland Australia. Apparently it would otherwise be thrown away as only the meat is sold at markets whereas the skin is used for clothing in Italy.




Scientists combine 3D printing and crocodile cartilage to treat joint injuries

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