“The use of robots for tissue engineering creates much more realistic biomechanical stimulation, which I see as a breakthrough,” says Dana Damian, a professor at the University of Sheffield, who did not participate in the study. “The next step is to establish that robot participation shows a clear improvement over the use of conventional bioreactors.”
The technology could be used to produce tissue to repair tears in the rotator cuff tendons, a very common shoulder problem that can arise from a sports injury or a disease such as tendinitis, which is the most common cause of shoulder pain in adults. Surgeons typically use sutures to reconnect broken tendons to the bone, a repair that fails in about 40% of cases due to poor tissue healing. Tissue grafts grown by stimulating humanoid robots could be cured more successfully.
The technique is still far from producing a fully functional tendon graft, but researchers say a similar approach could also have other applications, creating better muscles or ligaments in bioreactors, for example. And robots could match the patient’s physiology, customizing the tissue they produce, the team suggests.
Correction: The name of the magazine has been changed.