Jun 12, 2017 | By Benedict

Edward Hsiao, Associate Professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is using an Organovo 3D printer in an attempt to create 3D printed bone. Hsiao hopes his research could lead to treatments for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP).

The development of 3D printed bone (and other 3D printed body parts) is seen as an important long-term goal for researchers in the fields of medicine and biomedicine. Although it could be a while before anyone creates 3D printed bones that are suitable for immediate human implantation, 3D printing anything that even resembles human bone can lead to important discoveries.

For one medical researcher at UCSF, 3D printed bone could have an incredibly important consequence: the treatment of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a condition that causes dangerous and unwanted bone growth in adults. FOP sufferers are at huge risk every day, because even the smallest knocks and bumps can cause their vertebrae to fuse, their joints to lock, or their rib cages to freeze up—an event that could cause breathing difficulty and even death.

It is therefore hardly surprising that Edward Hsiao, Associate Professor of medicine at UCSF, is doing everything in his power to come up with solutions for FOP patients. Interestingly, one of those solutions involves the 3D printing of bone using an Organovo 3D printer.

Although Hsiao does not believe in the immediate possibility of 3D printing new bones for FOP sufferers, he thinks that 3D printed bone models—small sections of bone-like material that can be put under the microscope—could be used to test experimental new drugs for conditions like FOP.

Edward Hsiao is carrying out important research involving 3D printed bone

Using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a kind of pluripotent stem cell that can be generated from adult cells, Hsiao has been able to make many of the essential ingredients of human bone, including mesenchymal stem cells, endothelial cells, and macrophages.

“We are putting cells into the equivalent of an ink,” Hsiao says. “Then we will print the structures with the ink, let the ink dissolve, and leave the cells. The hope is that the cells can then recapitulate the normal developmental process.”

These 3D printed bone structures could prove incredibly important for Hsiao and—more importantly—for FOP patients. The UCSF researcher believes that small sections of the 3D printed bone could be used to test experimental drugs and other treatments that could prevent or diminish the effect of bone deformities. Testing such treatments on live FOP sufferers is hardly an option, since the unknown effects of new treatments could be harmful to human subjects.

Hsiao and his colleagues are using Organovo 3D printing equipment in their research

Hsiao’s 3D printed bone research could have other important consequences too. The medical expert says that, by investigating the unusual bone growth phenomenon that occurs during FOP, he might discover a means of generating new bone for patients who need bone and joint replacements. In other words, the process that causes so much pain for FOP sufferers could actually be incredibly useful for patients who need new bone.

“In [FOP] patients, we know that mature bone formation can happen in as quickly as two weeks, so it is possible to grow bone in an adult,” Hsiao says. “We need to understand how to modulate that.”

Although FOP sufferers and patients needing bone replacement aren’t likely to reap the benefits of Hsiao’s research in the immediate future, the long-term consequences of the associate professor’s work could be staggering.

“Someday, my dream would be to be able to identify the cells we need, give someone a drug that induces the right genes and recruits the right cells to the correct site, and have the cells rebuild the joint from scratch,” Hsiao says.

Hsiao was heavily involved in a partnership between UCSF and Organovo announced last year.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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