Bioprinting technique may provide potential for tissue repair and regenerative medicine
Researchers are one step closer to embedding vascular networks into thick human tissues, which could result in tissue repair and regeneration — and ultimately even replacement of whole organs.
A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School for Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has invented a method for 3-D bioprinting thick vascularized tissue constructs. The vasculature network enables fluids, nutrients, and cell growth factors to be perfused uniformly throughout the tissue.
The advance was reported Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This latest work extends the capabilities of our multi-material bioprinting platform to thick human tissues, bringing us one step closer to creating architectures for tissue repair and regeneration,” says the study’s senior author, Jennifer A. Lewis, who is a Wyss core faculty member and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS.
In the study, Lewis and her team showed that their 3-D printed, vascularized tissues could thrive and function as living tissue architectures for upwards of six weeks.
To date, scaling up human tissues built of a variety of cell types has been limited by an inability to embed life-sustaining vascular networks. Building on their earlier work, Lewis and her team have now increased the tissue thickness threshold nearly tenfold, setting the stage for future advances in tissue engineering and repair. The method combines vascular plumbing with living cells and an extracellular matrix, enabling the structures to function as living tissues.
As an example of what can be done with the technology, Lewis’ team printed 1-centimeter-thick tissue containing human bone marrow stem cells surrounded by connective tissue. By pumping bone growth factors through supporting vasculature lined with the same endothelial cells found in human blood vessels, the scientists induced the cells to develop into bone cells over the course of one month, according to the study.
“This research will help to establish the fundamental scientific understanding required for bioprinting of vascularized living tissues,” said Zhijian Pei, National Science Foundation program director for the Directorate for Engineering Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation, which funded the project. “Research such as this enables broader use of 3-D human tissues for drug safety and toxicity screening and, ultimately, for tissue repair and regeneration.”
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