July 11, 2022 – almost 1 in 100 children in the U.S. Born with a heart defect. The effects can be devastating, requiring children to rely on implanted devices that must change over time.
“Mechanical solutions don’t grow with patients,” says Dr. Mark Skylar-Scott, Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University. “This means that patients will need multiple surgeries as they grow.”
He and his team are working on a solution that could provide these children with a better quality of life with less surgery. Their thoughts: Using a 3D Bioprinter“ Make the tissue that doctors need to help patients.
“Our dream is to be able to print cardiac tissue, such as heart valves and ventricles, that are alive and can grow with the patient,” said Skylar-Scott, who has been working on bioprinting for the past 15 years to create blood vessels and hearts organize.
3D printer that fits your body
Regular 3D printing works much like your office inkjet printer, with one key difference: instead of spraying a single layer of ink onto paper, a 3D printer releases molten plastic or other material one layer at a time to work from the bottom up .The result can be anything from car parts to whole house.
3D bioprinting, or the process of using living cells to create 3D structures such as skin, blood vessels, organs, or bones, sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it already exists 1988.
3D printers may rely on plastic or concrete, while bioprinters require “things like cells, DNA, microRNA and other biological matter,” says Dr. Ibrahim OzbolatProfessor of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurosurgery at Penn State University.
“These materials are loaded into the hydrogel so the cells can stay alive and grow,” Ozbolat said. “This ‘bioink’ is then layered and has time to mature into living tissue, which can take 3 to 4 weeks.”
What body parts have scientists been able to print so far? Most tissues created by bioprinting to date have been very small — and nearly all are still in various stages of testing.
“Clinical Trials Cartilaginous ear reconstruction, nerve regeneration and skin regeneration are already underway,” Ozbolat said. “In the next 5 to 10 years, we can expect more clinical trials for complex organ types. “
What’s holding back bioprinting?
The problem with 3D bioprinting is that human organs are thick. It takes hundreds of millions of cells to print one millimeter of tissue. This is not only resource intensive, but also very time consuming. A bioprinter that pushes out a single cell at a time takes weeks to produce even a few millimeters of tissue.
But Skylar-Scott and his team have recently achieved a breakthrough that could help reduce manufacturing time significantly.
Instead of using a single cell, Skylar-Scott’s team successfully bioprinted a group of cells. stem cell called organoids. When several organoids are placed close to each other, they combine—similar to the way rice grains clump together. These clumps then self-assemble into a network of tiny structures that resemble miniature organs.
“Instead of printing individual batteries, we can print larger blocks [the organoids],” Skylar-Scott said. “We believe this is a faster way to make paper towels. “
While organoids have accelerated production, the next challenge in this way of 3D bioprinting is having enough material.
“Now that we can make stuff with a lot of cells, we need a lot of cells to practice,” Skylar-Scott said. How many cells are needed? “A typical scientist processes 1 to 2 million cells in a petri dish. To make a big, thick organ requires 1 to 300 billion cells,” he said.
How bioprinting is changing medicine
One vision for bioprinting is to create living heart tissue and whole organs for use by children.This may reduce the organ transplant and surgery, as living tissue grows and functions with the patient’s own body.
But there are still many issues that need to be addressed before critical body tissue can be printed and feasible.
“Right now we’re thinking about the little things, not printing the whole heart,” Skylar-Scott said. Instead, they focused on smaller structures, such as valves and ventricles. These structures are at least five to 10 years away, Skylar-Scott said.
Meanwhile, Ozbolat envisions a world where doctors can bioprint exactly the structures they need while the patient is on the operating table. “It’s a technique where the surgeon can drag the print directly onto the patient,” Ozbolat said. such tissue paper printing The technology is still in its infancy, but his team is committed to taking it further.