How 3D printing of organs could revolutionize medicine – The Hill
The story at a glance
- Researchers recently transplanted a 3D-printed ear made from stem cells into a 20-year-old woman born with microtia.
- Biotech company United Therapeutics said this week it has produced a 3D-printed human lung scaffold that could be seeded with a patient’s own stem cells to create tolerable and transplantable human lungs.
- Technology in the next few decades could be a game-changer for the approximately 10,000 organ transplants that take place each year and the more than 100,000 people waiting on waiting lists.
Researchers and biotech companies working to revolutionize the field of tissue and organ engineering are achieving major medical breakthroughs through 3D printing.
Surgeons in San Antonio have successfully transplanted a 3D-printed ear implant made from human stem cells into a 20-year-old woman born with microtia, a rare birth defect in which the outer ear is deformed.
3DBio Therapeutics, a regenerative medicine company, last week announced the landmark procedure in a first-of-its-kind clinical trial that includes 11 patients with microtia.
The process uses conventional 3D printing techniques, where a computer model of the ear is fed into a printer. But instead of depositing materials like plastic, metal, or resin, a biocompatible material, or “bioink,” is used to build a scaffold that acts as a skeleton for the printed fabric. The scaffold is then seeded with cells from the patient and cultured so that the cells can multiply. From there, the implant is transplanted into a patient. The researchers say that since the cells come from the patient’s own tissue, the new ear is unlikely to be rejected by the body.
While ears and other lab-grown tissue have been implanted in patients before, 3DBio Therapeutics’ recent announcement marks the first use of a 3D-printed implant made from living tissue to replace a body part. of a patient.
“So far, in the field, a number of tissues have been designed and implanted in patients. But these were actually created by hand, one at a time,” said Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine who is not involved in the study. Atala and his team successfully implanted the world’s first lab-developed bladder in a patient in 1999.
“What the printer does is it gives you several benefits. This gives you more precision and reliability because you can create the structures the same way every time. This gives you scalability as you can produce more in an automated way. And in doing so, it also allows you to reduce the cost of the products,” he said.
The microtia procedure is part of several recent advances in organ and tissue engineering and could pave the way for more ambitious projects, such as the eventual 3D printing of tissues or more functional organs such as livers. and kidneys for transplants, although researchers stress that success is still far in the future.
But earlier this month, a separate company called United Therapeutics revealed it had produced a 3D-printed human lung scaffold that could be seeded with a patient’s own stem cells to create tolerable, transplantable human lungs that would not require immunosuppression to prevent the body from rejecting the organ. . The ultimate goal is to create an unlimited supply of transplantable lungs in the future. The company has called it “the world’s most complex 3D printed object” and expects human clinical trials within the next five years, a goal that Atala says is achievable.
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Technology in the next few decades could be a game-changer for the approximately 10,000 organ transplants that take place each year and the more than 100,000 people waiting on waiting lists.
“There are millions and millions of people who just can’t get on the waitlist because they don’t qualify. So there really is a need for organs,” said Adam Feinberg, co-founder of regenerative medicine company FluidForm and professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
Feinberg said his Carnegie Mellon lab began adapting 3D printers for bioprinting in 2010 as patents for plastic printers expired and companies began making inexpensive open-source desktop printers.
“Suddenly there was all this innovation. And the question I asked my students was, can we use this to build a bio-printer because the existing bio-printers at the time cost about a quarter of a million dollars, which isn’t unrealistic,” he said.
Feinberg helped develop a form of 3D bioprinting called FRESH, which involves engineering tissue into a support gel to hold the structure secure during printing. FluidForm has since used the process to build parts of the human heart, including ventricles, valves and blood vessels.
FluidForm works to build functional parts of the human heart to help the biopharmaceutical industry develop better drugs to treat different types of cardiomyopathy, heart failure, arrhythmias and other heart conditions. Feinberg said the work is important because there are currently no good models for developing new heart drugs.
“Heart disease is still the world’s leading cause of death, so developing better drugs is essential,” he said.
The company is also developing 3D printing technology to build scaffolds to heal wounds that are too big to heal on their own.
At Stanford University, Mark Skylar-Scott’s team uses 3D bioprinting processes to fabricate heart and vascular tissue. Researchers hope to help treat congenital heart defects in children.
“I think even if the dream of tissue engineering has survived, its ability to really create tissue is only beginning to look like a real possibility,” Skyler-Scott said.
“And thanks to decades of pioneering work in the field, we’re starting to see these therapies enter clinical trials, which is very exciting,” he said.
Skylar-Scott, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the Stanford Schools of Engineering and Medicine, noted that while progress has been made on easier targets and clinical trials of simpler tissues, such as l outside of an ear, progress, it will still likely be decades until there is the impression of whole solid organs.
“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t lay the groundwork now. There is a real reason to get excited on the pitch. These technologies are game changers.
Posted on June 10, 2022