Crocodile Tissue Studied for Cartilage Repair
Pardraig M. Strappe, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the Central Queensland University, Australia, is using 3D printing with human stem cells and crocodile cartilage in an attempt to discover a new way to treat and repair arthritis and joint injuries.
Led by Strappe, a group of researchers are working to perfect a process to extract growth factors from the cartilage of crocodiles and remove proteins that trigger an immune response in humans.
The university campus is near the Koorana Crocodile Farm, which produces crocodile meat for the Australian market and exports skins for the fashion industry.
Strappe said, "They are very innovative in looking at new ways to use waste products, which essentially, for them, is cartilage. A crocodile has very big articulating joints, so it needs a lot of cartilage to maintain that movement."
Strappe’s researchers are producing a “soup or a glue that might promote our own adult stem cells we take from fat tissue or bone marrow, to become cartilage,” he said. "We hope that might promote cartilage repair, which is a big challenge and becoming more so in elderly populations."
A mutually beneficial relationship has developed between the university and the crocodile farm. Strappe used cartilage from young crocodiles' throat areas for his testing. A 3D bioprinter is being used to fabricate cartilage explants, which they hope will ultimately be implanted or injected in damaged human joints.
As Strappe explained, "If you have a traumatic injury to the articulating joint, particularly the knee, you are left with a crack or a fissure and that doesn't have an endogenous repair system because cartilage doesn't have a blood supply. You are left with a hole that needs to be filled in. With 3D printing we can mimic that hole or that gap so potentially the orthopaedic surgeon could fill in that gap with a little cartilage explant to repair the joint.”