Mar 23, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and Sahlgrenska Academy, both located in Gothenburg, Sweden, have used 3D bioprinting to induce living human cartilage cells to develop and grow in an animal. The breakthrough could be a step towards 3D printed body parts.

3D bioprinted human cartilage was successfully implanted into mice

Earlier this year, Swedish bioprinting company CELLINK released its latest 3D bioprinter, the Bio X, capable of printing in a range of biomaterials, including heart, skin, cartilage, and bone, and which offers the latest in CELLINK’s bioprinting technology, hardware, and software. But although the new 3D bioprinter is CELLINK’s most advanced, it is the older CELLINK INKREDIBLE bioprinter that has helped Swedish researchers make a major bioprinting breakthrough.

In a research project that could massively advance the development of 3D printable human organs, scientists at Sahlgrenska Academy and Chalmers University of Technology have induced human-derived cartilage cells to live and grow in an animal host—in this case, mice. “This is the first time anyone has printed human-derived cartilage cells, implanted them in an animal model, and induced them to grow,” said Paul Gatenholm, a professor of biopolymer technology at Chalmers University of Technology.

The Swedish researchers’ findings, which have been published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, show how a hydrogel of nanocellulose mixed with human-derived cartilage cells was 3D printed using the CELLINK printer and then implanted in mice. This new nanocellulose-based biomaterial was developed by Gatenholm and his research team at the  Wallenberg Wood Science Center. They were aided by Lars Kölby, a senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy and a specialist consultant with the Department of Plastic Surgery at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

Researchers operate the CELLINK INKREDIBLE 3D bioprinter

(Images: Mats Tiborn)

The researchers could not be certain how the mice would react to the human cartilage, but they witnessed three incredibly important results: first, the human cartilage actually grew once within the mice; second, blood vessels formed in the mice within and around the lattice-shaped 3D printed material; and third, there was a strong stimulation of proliferation and neocartilage formation by human stem cells. All three of these results could be incredibly important to the field of 3D bioprinting.

“What we see after 60 days is something that begins to resemble cartilage,” said Kölby. “It is white and the human cartilage cells are alive and producing what they are supposed to. We have also been able to stimulate the cartilage cells by adding stem cells, which clearly promoted further cell division.”

The researchers say that collaboration between the two institutes and sharing of their respective pools of knowledge was key to the success of the project. “Often, it is like this: we clinicians work with problems and researchers work with solutions,” Kölby said. “If we can come together, there is a chance of actually solving some of the problems we are wrestling with—and in this way, patients benefit from the research.”

Vascularization of the bioprinted material inside a mouse

(Image: Philip Krantz)

Although the research does not immediately enable the possibility of 3D bioprinted organs for human implantation, it marks another important stepping stone along the way. The Gotherburg-based researchers are cautiously optimistic that their work will have an important part to play when that moment final arrives.

“With what we have done, the research has taken a step forward towards someday, we hope, being able to bioprint cells that become body parts for patients,” Gatenholm said. “This is how you have to work when it comes to this kind of pioneering activity: one small step at a time. Our results are not a revolution, but are surely a gratifying part of an evolution!”

Other researchers on the paper, which is called “In Vivo Chondrogenesis in 3D Bioprinted Human Cell-laden Hydrogel Constructs,” were Thomas Möller, Matteo Amoroso, Daniel Hägg, Camilla Brantsing, Nicole Rotter, Peter Apelgren, and Anders Lindahl.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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