Scientists Have Developed a New Method to 3D-Print Living Tissue

In Brief

Researchers from the University of Oxford have developed a method for 3D printing tissues and organs with greater structural integrity, detail, and precision. Their technique allows for the 3D printing of more complex tissues and cartilage, which could potentially be used to repair or replace damaged parts of the body.

Cell by Cell

3D-printing technology has made significant strides over the past several years. What started as a tool for producing small objects can now be used to craft food, build houses, and even construct “space fabric.”

One of the tech’s most impressive applications, however, is the creation of artificial tissues and organs, a process known as 3D bioprinting, and now, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford has developed a new method that takes 3D bioprinting to the next level. They published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Bioprinting: How 3D Printing is Changing MedicineClick to View Full Infographic

A major challenge faced by researchers when 3D printing artificial tissues is getting them to maintain their shape. The cells are apt to move around in the printed structure and collapse in on themselves.

To avoid this, the Oxford team, led by 3D-bioprinting scientist Alexander Graham from Oxford Synthetic Biology (OxSyBio), contained their cells within nanolitre droplets that were wrapped in a lipid coating. These droplets could then be placed one layer at a time into living structures. Thanks to the structural support provided by the container, the tissues would maintain their shape, and the individual cells could survive longer as well.

Better Tissues

Because this new method allows tissues to be built one drop at a time, researchers can use it to more accurately mimic natural tissues.

“We were aiming to fabricate three-dimensional living tissues that could display the basic behaviors and physiology found in natural organisms,” Graham said in a press release.

“To date, there are limited examples of printed tissues, which have the complex cellular architecture of native tissue. Hence, we focused on designing a high-resolution cell printing platform, from relatively inexpensive components, that could be used to reproducibly produce artificial tissues with appropriate complexity from a range of cells including stem cells,” he explained.

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Researchers across the globe have already made considerable advances in 3D bioprinting and how it can be applied to regenerative medicine. We can now create 3D-printed organs and body parts that resemble and function like their natural counterparts, such as those realistic-looking ears. By enabling the production of complex tissues, the Oxford team’s method could revolutionize regenerative medicine even more, allowing for the repair or replacement of more intricate diseased and damaged body parts.

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“There are many potential applications for bioprinting, and we believe it will be possible to create personalized treatments by using cells sourced from patients to mimic or enhance natural tissue function,” OxSyBio CTO Sam Olof said in the press release. “In the future, 3D bio-printed tissues maybe also be used for diagnostic applications — for example, for drug or toxin screening.”

The next step, according to Graham, is to develop complementary printing techniques that will allow for the use of additional kinds of living and hybrid materials. At the same time, they’re exploring the production of their current artificial tissues on an industrial scale.

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IdiPAZ scientists hope to make 3D printed replacement corneas available within 5 years

Aug 16, 2017 | By David

Over the last few years, we’ve seen some remarkable and inspiring things being achieved by bio-engineers bringing together stem cell research and 3D printing technology. Medical professionals now have the ability to produce artificial skin and liver tissue, amongst other things. This trend is set to continue in future, as a team in Spain recently announced its intention to create a replacement cornea using 3D bio-printing. The Spanish Institute for Biomedical Research, at the La Paz Hospital (Instituto de Investigación Biomédica del Hospital La Paz (IdiPAZ)) in Madrid, will be capable of creating these 3D printed corneas within 5 years, and this should have a huge positive impact on the lives of countless patients.

Over 10 million people a year go blind due to various different corneal pathologies, in part because transplants are so difficult to arrange. Having the ability to produce a cornea in laboratory conditions will mean that patients in need of a replacement will no longer have to wait for a suitable donor to be found. The aim of the research team is to develop the technology to produce a bio-mimetic human corneal stroma that will completely replace the need for human donors. Surgeons treating a patient with corneal problems will be able to get a new 3D printed cornea, tailored to the patient’s anatomy, within 5 days.

This pioneering new research was selected by the Foundation for Innovation and Prospective Health in Spain (Fipse), in the framework of the international Idea2 Global program which was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). If successful, potentially millions of people could have their sight restored by the project.

A number of different options are currently being explored by the team. The basic process they will be using is the synthesis of a polymeric extracellular matrix of collagen that mimics the human cornea. Stem cells will be 3D printed into this matrix, manufacturing a biological cornea as opposed to growing one. The 3D printing system has already been completed, and the team are currently working on getting the right nanotechnology to build the collagen matrix required to implement it. Guaranteeing corneal transparency required parallel collagen fibers to be printed with specific distances between them.

The stem cells for the replacement cornea are taken from a patient’s fatty tissue, which means that they will be a biological match for the existing tissue in the eye. The transplant is known as an ‘autologous’ transplant, which means that the eye will recognize the newly 3D printed cornea as if it was a transplanted one from a donor with a DNA match. This will ensure that there will be no rejection, unlike with many synthetic transplants.

According to Dr. María Paz de Miguel, who heads the team, characterizing the stem cells of each patient will be one of the key concerns, after the rest of the techniques have been perfected. His research team is working in collaboration with experts from MIT and Harvard, in a “very interactive” project that is scheduled to last until the end of this year.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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Camber Spine receives FDA 510(k) clearance for 3D printed medical device

Camber Spine Technologies, a designer and developer of medical devices, has received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market its 3D printed SPIRA Open Matrix ALIF device.

An interbody fusion implant, developed with spiral support arches and Surface by Design technology, it becomes the tenth of Camber’s spinal implant devices to be released in the American medical market. This latest device was designed to increase fusion rates and provide a more stable solution for patients.

Though not the first of Camber Spine’s products to be released to market, it is the first to be produced with 3D printing technology. The spiral support arches shared the load over the entire endplate, and helped to decrease subsidence. This also enhanced the bone graft capacity. Additionally, the Surface by Design technology produced a rough surface design to facilitate bone growth through an optimised pore diameter, strut thickness, and trabecular pattern. The success of the development of the SPIRA device has convinced Camber Spine to launch a series of them, all manufactured with the help of 3D printing.

“Camber Spine is very excited to be launching our first in a series of spinal implants using additive manufacturing,” said Daniel Pontecorvo, Camber Spine technologies CEO. “This specialised manufacturing technology allows us to create these truly unique patented structures featuring open arched matrixes and proprietary surfaces designed to enhance fusion and promote bone growth.”

“In the coming months, we will be launching a series of five SPIRA spinal interbody cages for cervical, lateral, and posterior lumber spine. Extremity implants and custom implants for salvage and complex deformity implants are also under development.”

The Camber Spine SPIRA Open Matrix ALIF, for use in skeletally mature patients with Degenerative Disc Disease at one or two contiguous levels from L2-S1, is intended to be used with additional FDA-cleared supplementary fixation systems. With the Open Matrix ALIF, and more implant devises to follow, Camber Spine is sure it will provide a comprehensive offering to American patients.

“We believe that the addition of SPIRA and ENZA MIS Integrated interbody devices to our product portfolio creates a foundation of patented implant solutions that will drive the growth of Camber Spine,” concluded Pontecorvo.