The cosmos are filled with roughly Earth-sized exoplanets. Various moons, comets, and planets have stores of water, organic molecules, and amino acids like those that make up life on Earth.
Cathal O’Donnell, a 3D bioprinting researcher at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbournethose odds — he argues inThe Conversation that the abundance of potentially habitable worlds out there makes the discovery of extraterrestrial life “inevitable and possibly imminent.”
In an effort to scale up the manufacture of biomaterials, researchers at UC Berkeley have combined bioprinting, a robotic arm, and flash freezing in a method that may one day allow living tissue, and even whole organs, to be printed on demand. By printing cells into 2D sheets and then freezing them as assembled, the new technique improves cell survival during both building and storage.
As the head of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s innovative Cancer Center, Bhargava has been plugging away at injecting more advanced engineering solutions into medical problems. The freeform 3D printer is one of the first futuristic achievements of that effort.
But Bhargava’s project is just one of a wave of technologies that stand to transform medicine and healthcare as we know it; to make them faster, more accurate, and hopefully, drastically more affordable. Microneedle patches, handheld diagnostic machines, and better sensing capabilities, as well as 3D bioprinting, are just a few of the technologies coming to a doctor’s office near you—or maybe even into your home—in the next decade.
Korean researchers have been experimenting further in the bioprinting of tracheal implants, publishing recent results in ‘Trachea with Autologous Epithelial Cells and Chondrocytes.’ The team of scientists details their use of polycaprolactone and hydrogel mixed with nasal epithelial and auricular cartilage cells.
After bioprinting an artificial trachea with these materials and tissue, they transplanted them into 15 rabbits, six of which were a control group. The goal was to find a way to overcome tracheal problems due to tumors, the most common of which are adenoid cystic carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Previously there have been substantial challenges in creating viable tracheas that are anatomically correct and can produce a ciliated epithelium. Issues have arisen with infection, implants that become dislodged, have migrated, or experienced obstruction.
United Therapeutics will license, develop, and commercialize CollPlant Holdings’ recombinant human collagen (rhCollagen) and BioInk technology for 3D bioprinting of solid-organ scaffolds for human transplants, the companies said today, through a collaboration that could generate more than $44 million.
Through its wholly- owned organ manufacturing and transplantation-focused subsidiary Lung Biotechnology PBC, United Therapeutics has been granted what the companies termed an exclusive license “throughout the universe” by CollPlant to its technology for producing and using rhCollagen-based BioInk for 3D bioprinted lung transplants.
Lung Biotechnology PBC is a public benefit corporation formed to address the acute national shortage of transplantable lungs and other organs with a variety of technologies that either delay the need for such organs or expand the supply.
Medical research has taken a leap into the future as Russian scientists have managed to grow a mouse’s thyroid in zero gravity using a 3D bioprinter on the International Space Station (ISS). And human organs may be next in line.
The breakthrough device dubbed Organaut was delivered to the ISS by a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft on December 3 by Expedition 58.
In what is no longer a plot of a sci-fi movie, the innovative device created a mouse’s thyroid in zero gravity. And the result was a success. Invitro, whose subsidiary 3D Bioprinting Solutions built the printer, told Ria Novosti: “We received photos from space. The camera clearly shows a living construction of a mouse’s thyroid being assembled.”
3D bioprinting continues to diversify as more and more companies and research organizations join the field, each bringing their own take on the technology to the table. French collaborative platform 3D.fab has an intriguing approach towards bioprinting that involves a freeform robot capable of directly printing on a part of the body. In the video below, the BioAssemblyBot prints what appears to be a bandage directly on an arm:
The “bandage” is actually a bio-ink made from the skin cells of a patient. When applied to the patient’s skin, it forms an autograft that will, within a couple of weeks, create new skin. The BioAssemblyBot is capable of both additive and contour 3D printing, as well as pick and place and assembly thanks to its interchangeable tools. It’s only one of 3D.fab’s bioprinting technologies; the platform has a few other bioprinters in development as well, including another skin printer.
After successfully transplanting the first 3D-printed cornea in an animal, North Carolina company Precise Bio has recently announced the launch of a dedicated business for creating marketable, 3D-printed products for human eyes. Founded by scientists from the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, this company is developing bio-fabrication printers that can restore cells, tissues, and organs. Their proprietary technology, a 4D bio-printing platform, is said to resolve existing limitations presented by other bioprinters to enable more complex tissues to be engineered for transplants and treatments. By focusing on developing marketable products for the eye, the company aims to achieve rapid advancement in its field and move to overhaul the whole organ transplant system.
When a cornea is damaged by disease or injury, a replacement is often needed to restore vision. Transplant surgery using donated corneas is an available solution, however, it relies on a deceased donor. While the waiting list in the United States is nearly non-existent, other countries require longer wait times, some over a year, before one is available. The Eye Bank Association of America estimates that around 10 million people suffer from corneal blindness that could potentially be restored via transplant surgery. An artificially manufactured cornea would overcome supply limitations while also contributing to the knowledge base to develop more complex organs such as hearts and livers.