Researchers at Newcastle University are 3D printing corneas utilizing stem cells. The process involves mixing stem cells in a bio-gel which is derived from seaweed and collagen that allows these stem cells to be cultured and printed easily and efficiently into fully functioning corneas. The cornea plays an important role in focusing light that enters the eye. Technically, blindness caused by corneal damage is easily reversible with a corneal transplant. However, there is a vast shortage of donor corneas due to general organ and tissue donation shortages. In addition, there is also a significant risk of rejection - as is the case with any donated tissue.
Artist and researcher Amy Karle is collaborating with researchers at the California Academy of Science and Autodesk to develop a method to 3D print a human arm using stem cells. Karle created a 3D printed scaffold and a culture medium that will direct the stem cells to grow into the structure of the bones in the arm. Her methods could be essential for future limb transplants, which could be grown in a lab rather than obtained from a donor.
A team of researchers at the University of Glasgow are utilizing 3D printers to create bone scaffolds that, when coated with a growth substance and stem cells, will continue to grow into bone in the implanted body. The aim of utilizing synthetically grown bone replacements is to create a readily available technology that can be used around the world, especially in places abundant with landmines. This is an important breakthrough for landmine blast survivors whose only option is usually amputation.
Researchers at the U.K’s University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine announced a new advancement in bio-printing. They developed a bio-ink that is comprised of stem cells and two polymers – one naturally occurring and the other artificial. The polymers provide structural support to the stem cells that can then be directed to differentiate into the appropriate tissue. The addition of the phase-change polymer component to the bio-ink allows the printed organ to quickly develop the structural integrity necessary to introduce cell nutrients to the stem cells.
An Australian periodontist has pioneered a new 3D printing technique that regrows missing gum tissue and jaw bones. Traditionally, bone and tissue replacements are taken from other parts of the body such as the hip or femur. Dr. Ivanovki’s method uses a bioprinter to grow missing tissue from a patient's own cells. This 3D printing alternative is much less invasive than bone replacement, and dramatically reduces the risk of infection or rejection.
We all take articular cartilage for granted. It takes up a seemingly insignificant amount of space, and somehow absorbs the full pressure our body weight. Arthritis and articular injuries can cause chronic and crippling pain. One group of researchers is developing 3D printed cartilage by bioprinting with an ‘ink’ containing human cells. This technology may one day lead to printed implants, noses, ears, and knees.
Biomedical engineers from the University of California, San Diego have created a stem cell based tissue that mimics the human liver. This model could be used for patient-specific drug screening and disease modeling. The complex micro-architecture of a liver utilized a hexagonal pattern of stem cells and human liver tissue. Autologous stem cells were taken from the patient’s own skin cells to act as supporting cells. Because the method used 3D printing, the entire structure—a 3 × 3 millimeter square, 200 micrometers thick—takes just seconds to print on demand.
Sichuan Rivotek Co has printed 3D blood vessels with stem cell-based bio-ink. Blood vessels are ubiquitous in all living organisms; their creation, via bio-ink and 3D printing could portend widespread application across all fields of regenerative medicine. As 3D printing progresses, more patient specific parts and even organ systems may be developed. Earlier modes of 3D printing that have used titanium instead of bio-inks have created surgically implanted jawbones and rib cages in experimental settings, providing valuable information to guide future development.
RoosterBio Inc has developed a Ready-to-Print (RTP) stem cell 3D bioprinter. This advancement in tissue engineering removes weeks from the current cellular bioprinting processes. This RTP provides significant quantities of high quality human mesenchymal stem cells (MCSs), which simplifies and accelerates the most complex and labor intensive aspects of bioprinting.
The potential power of regenerative medicine is gaining prominence in the mainstream media. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal depicts a future where regenerative medicine would support the repair and regeneration of human body parts and tissues via stem cells, three-dimensional printing, and applied bioengineering strategies. The emerging therapies take advantage of the special characteristics of stem cells, that is, their role as the natural repair and maintenance cells of the body and their ability to regenerate and differentiate into a variety of cell types.