Decision-making and Development of A 3D Printing-based Meniscus Transplantation System
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The meniscus is a wedge-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in the knee. Every year millions of people have surgery to treat meniscus tears, for which meniscus transplantation is the favored treatment in the long term. However, like other tissue/organ transplantations, this treatment suffers from many fundamental limitations such as the shortage of donors and the risk of shape mismatch. Moreover, managing the supply chain of the donor-based meniscus transplantation system is difficult. An emerging manufacturing technology, three-dimensional (3D) printing, is promising to conquer this problem by fabricating artificial meniscus. However, critical problems exist to turn the printer-based meniscus transplantation into reality including concerns on the benefits of 3D printing and challenges in controlling the printing system to produce qualified products. This research will evaluate the benefits of 3D printing in meniscus transplantation to help the decision-making of medical policy makers and patients and develop systematic methodologies for the control of the printing system. If successful, research will lead to a meniscus printer to satisfy the vast needs of patients with meniscus damage. Efforts will be made to include students from underrepresented groups in this project and provide them a diversified education background and interdisciplinary research training.The research team consists of researchers in biomedical engineering, manufacturing and systems informatics, aiming to find an integrated, optimal solution to the current challenges. Specifically, the team will focus on three tasks: (i) performing cost and risk analysis of the 3D printing-based meniscus transplantation compared to the current donor-based meniscus transplantation, (ii) developing data-driven methodologies for the control of the 3D printing system, including material selection, quality assessment, and quality prediction, and (iii) conducting patient survey to collect information that will help to evaluate the strengths and gaps of the meniscus printer toward personalized printing. This research will provide a systematic, evidence-grounded, practically convenient framework for decision making on meniscus printing, and shift the current trial-and-error approach in 3D printing into a model-based, knowledge-guided approach.