London: An international team of scientists has developed a new bio-glass material that can mimic and potentially encourage cartilage to repair or regrow. This material developed by the researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Milano-Bicocca can be formulated to exhibit different properties and the researhers are now hoping to use it to develop implants for replacing damaged cartilage discs between vertebrae. They believe that it also has the potential to encourage cartilage (a flexible connective tissue found in places such as in joints and between vertebrae in the spine) cells to grow in knees, which has previously not been possible with conventional methods. "Our research shows that a new flexible version of this material could be used as cartilage-like material," said professor Julian Jones, one of the developers of the bio-glass from the department of materials at Imperial College. "Patients will readily attest to loss of mobility that is associated with degraded cartilage and the lengths they will go to try and alleviate often excruciating pain. We still have a long way to go before this technology reaches patients," Jones added in a university statement. The bio-glass consists of silica and a plastic or polymer called polycaprolactone. It displays cartilage-like properties such as flexibility, strength, durability and resilience. It can be made in a biodegradable ink form, enabling the researchers to 3D print it into structures that encourage cartilage cells in the knee to form and grow -- a process that they have demonstrated in test tubes. It also displays self-healing properties when it gets damaged, which could make it a more resilient and reliable implant and easier to 3D print when it is in ink form.