July 24, 2014

Tissue engineering and vascular biology expert Guohao Dai, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has won a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his research into bio-fabricating human tissues using 3D cell printing.

Adult neural stem cells are known to hold a great potential for treating disease and damage to the nervous system. However, these cells are both rare and difficult to work with in a laboratory setting, because the cells lose their potency quickly upon being removed from their native environment.

Dai will use the five-year, $440,000 grant to design and develop a new way of using 3D cell printing technology to create a "vascular niche" that replicates the native environment of adult neural stem cells.

Unlike the cells in the body, most lab cultures are 2D. A major challenge in creating and studying 3D tissues is the diffusion limit in the tissues, which quickly lose potency or die without a flow of blood to provide oxygen and nutrients.

To help overcome this challenge, Dai and his team have spent years developing a 3D tissue printer which prints biological tissue by carefully depositing cells, hydrogels, and other materials one layer at a time. Using this platform, Dai developed the technology to create perfused vascular channels, which provide nutrients and oxygen to the printed tissues.

"Blood vessels run throughout almost every part of our bodies, bringing the oxygen and nutrients that allow our cells to survive. The same is true of 3-D cell cultures. They need a vascular system in order to survive," Dai said. "Our device can print 3-D tissues with small channels that function as blood vessels. This enables us to print cells with extracellular matrices that closely replicate those found within the body."

Dai's research team used the 3-D tissue printing technology to help study how the functions of the vascular endothelium -- a thin layer of cells that line entire circulatory system -- are affected by environmental factors such as interactions with blood and smooth muscle cells. A dysfunctional endothelium is known to be a contributor to many vascular diseases including inflammation, thrombosis, and atherosclerosis.

If successful, the project could significantly expand the potency and life span of the cells in laboratory settings, and lead to a better understanding of how this extracellular environment influences the behavior of the cells.


Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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