The EU Horizon 2020 project »JointPromise« proposes the development and implementation of an end-to-end automated production platform for three-dimensional joint implants, paving the way for tissue-engineered implants able to regenerate deep osteochondral defects. Currently, the manufacturing pipeline consists in manual production processes for microtissue cultivation, harvest and bioassembly into larger implants. In the conceptualizing stage of this project, the manual processes were translated into standard operating protocols (SOPs) and process design criteria like material flow and throughput as well as technical specifications of laboratory devices for an automated performance were elaborated.
Spheroid-based implants provide a novel approach in tissue engineering by aggregating progenitor cells into potent microtissues. After the differentiation of cartilaginous microtissues, functional joint implants are assembled via 3D bioprinting to match the complex structural organization of native cartilage tissue. The »JointPromise« platform includes suitable devices for cell and microtissue cultivation, harvest and implant production as well as quality control in an overall layout consisting of according pipetting units, incubator, centrifuge, bioprinter and high-speed microscope. After initiating the platform build-up, a control software for process controlling and monitoring during cell seeding, cultivation and harvest is implemented. Clinical feasibility and efficacy of osteochondral defect regeneration by the produced joint implants will subsequently be proven in large animal models.
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