Menisci, ear-shaped hunks of cartilage nestled between the thigh and shin bones, cushion every step we take. But a lifetime of wear and tear--or a single wrong step during a game of soccer or tennis -- can permanently damage these key supports, leading to pain and an increased risk of developing arthritis. Researchers have developed a hydrogel-based material that is the first to match human cartilage in strength and elasticity, while also remaining 3-D-printable and stable inside the body. To demonstrate how it might work, the researchers used a $300 3-D printer to create custom menisci for a plastic model of a knee.
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