Mar.13, 2014

For the first time, researchers at the Sabancı University in Turkey have 3D printed macro-vascular tissue constructs by using self-supported live cells and MR data.

The ultimate goal of 3D Tissue and Organ Printing Group led by professor Bahattin Koç, Sabancı University Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences' Manufacturing Systems Program member, is to use 3D bio-printers to print anatomically correct parts of / or an entire tissue/organ by using the patient's own regular cells or stem cells. As every item printed will be created from a culture of a patient's own cells, the risk of transplant organ rejection may not be a problem anymore.

The team was the first in Turkey and in the world to use MR data to recreate an anatomically correct aortic tissue construct with 3D printing. In their previous experiment, the team used live human dermal fibroblast cells as bio-ink to create macro-vascular tissue constructs. Fibroblast cells are the main cell types of connective tissue and they synthesize the extracellular matrix and collagen needed for tissues. Researchers will test endothelial and smooth muscle cells in a bioreactor in their further research.

"Unlike most of the previous scaffold-based tissue engineering studies, we use live cells as bio-ink in 3D printing." Prof. Koç said. "Using the algorithms we developed, we calculate the optimal paths to print the cells by mimicking the anatomy of the tissue to be produced. Another difference is that we print anatomically-correct tissues where all cells are self-supported in 3D. We determine how the support hydrogel structures will be used to support the cells. After determining where and how cells and their support hydrogels are printed, we save these commands to a file, and then use this file to control the bio-printer."

Prof. Koç started his research on 3D printing 16 years ago, and has been working on tissue engineering applications of 3D printing for the last 7 years. He explained further about the 3D Tissue and Organ Printing Project:

"There are two main reasons why we focus on the aorta: First, the aorta is the largest artery in the body that caries blood to all other vessels. Since no other blood vessel is as large as the aorta, it is not possible to replace the damaged aorta by an autologous graft. Synthetic vessels made of plastic (dacron) are currently being used for treatment, but these are never as good as real human blood vessels.

"Moreover, if artificial tissue or organs are to be engineered, we would first need blood vessels to supply oxygen and nutrition to them. An interesting fact that few people know is that Einstein died of an aneurism in the abdominal aorta. Aneurism is the expansion of a vessel like a balloon. In later phases, this may cause the vessel to rupture, leading to internal hemorrhage and even death. As a result of our work, we may be able to produce artificial aorta using the patient's own regular or stem cells, eliminating transplant rejection. We are at the beginnings of this work, and clinical studies may take years."

"We are not at the stage of building fully functional organs or tissues yet, but we are working towards this objective."


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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