Aug 15, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at the University of Oxford have found a new way to 3D print living structures from lab-grown cells. The structures could be used as human tissue models, removing the need for animal testing.

The 3D printing of living tissues, one of the most exciting applications of modern science, is going to benefit a lot of people: patients with complex diseases, 3D printing journalists, and animal rights campaigners, to name but a few.

And while the benefit to the first of those two groups is self-explanatory, the third is maybe a little more subtle.

The fact is that 3D printed or bioprinted tissue, once perfected, won’t just be a means of repairing damaged areas of the human body—though this is perhaps its most urgent and potentially beneficial application.

Printed tissue will also be used to test experimental drugs and medical procedures: by printing a living but ex vivo cell structure, scientists will be able to see how certain pharmaceutical ingredients react with human tissue.

And here’s where things get really handy for animal rights campaigners (and animals): these 3D printed cell structures could someday remove the need for animal testing altogether, since they will offer an even more realistic picture of human-drug interaction than can be drawn from research with lab animals.

In a research paper that has been published in the journal Scientific Reports, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Oxford (Department of Chemistry; Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics) and the University of Bristol (Centre for Molecular Medicine) has demonstrated a new method for 3D printing human and animal tissue constructs.

Led by Hagan Bayley, Professor of Chemical Biology in Oxford's Department of Chemistry, the researchers have devised a way to produce tissues in self-contained cells that support the structures and help to keep their shape.

The “droplet-based” 3D printing technique involves 3D printing cells in protective nanoliter droplets wrapped in a lipid coating, a method that supposedly improves the survival rate of the individual cells.

“We were aiming to fabricate three-dimensional living tissues that could display the basic behaviors and physiology found in natural organisms,” explained Dr Alexander Graham, lead author and 3D Bioprinting Scientist at OxSyBio (Oxford Synthetic Biology). “We focused on designing a high-resolution cell printing platform, from relatively inexpensive components, that could be used to reproducibly produce artificial tissues with appropriate complexity from a range of cells including stem cells.”

The research team hopes that its new printing method could have a positive impact on healthcare around the world, resulting in reproducible human tissue models that eliminate the need for animal testing, as well as new tissue regeneration therapies.

Given the potential impact of the 3D printing technique, the researchers already have one eye on commercializing the technology. In January 2016, London-based medical 3D printing company OxSyBio officially spun-out from the Bayley Lab, and the company will look to commercialize the new technique for “industrial and biomedical purposes.”

New complementary printing techniques will be trialled over the coming months, allowing the researchers to experiment with a wider range of living and hybrid materials.

“There are many potential applications for bioprinting and we believe it will be possible to create personalized treatments by using cells sourced from patients to mimic or enhance natural tissue function,” said Dr Sam Olof, Chief Technology Officer at OxSyBio. “In the future, 3D bioprinted tissues maybe also be used for diagnostic applications—for example, for drug or toxin screening.”

Dr Adam Perriman, from the University of Bristol's School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, added: “The ability to 3D print with adult stem cells and still have them differentiate was remarkable, and really shows the potential of this new methodology to impact regenerative medicine globally.”

Read the researchers’ study here.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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