In the dynamic realm of regenerative medicine, a groundbreaking chapter is unfolding as researchers at the Wyss Institute pioneer the 3D bioprinting of thick vascularized tissue constructs. This transformative technology is not only pushing the boundaries of organ engineering but also ushering in a new era for drug testing and tissue regeneration.
Unveiling the Potential:
The quest for laboratory-engineered human tissues with precise 3D architecture has been limited by the challenge of creating tissues with embedded, life-sustaining vascular networks. Enter multidisciplinary research at the Wyss Institute, culminating in the development of a multi-material 3D bioprinting method. This innovative approach enables the creation of vascularized tissues composed of living human cells, a remarkable ten times thicker than previously engineered tissues. Crucially, these constructs can maintain their architecture and function for an impressive six weeks.
The Ingenious Method:
The heart of this method lies in a customizable, printed silicone mold, acting as the scaffolding for the printed tissue on a chip. Within this mold, a grid of larger vascular channels is printed, housing living endothelial cells in silicone ink. Concurrently, a self-supporting ink containing living mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is layered in a separate print job. Post-printing, open regions within the construct are filled with a liquid composed of fibroblasts and extracellular matrix, adding a connective tissue component that cross-links and stabilizes the entire structure.
Sustaining Life and Functionality:
The resulting soft tissue structure is a marvel, immediately perfused with nutrients, growth factors, and differentiation factors through a single inlet and outlet. These connect to the vascular channel, ensuring the survival and maturation of the living cells. In a proof-of-principle study, one centimeter thick bioprinted tissue constructs facilitated the circulation of bone growth factors, inducing bone development—a testament to the potential of this revolutionary bioprinting approach.
Versatility for the Future:
This innovative bioprinting approach is not a one-trick pony. It can be adapted to create various vascularized 3D tissues, presenting immense possibilities for regenerative medicine and drug testing. The Wyss team is further exploring the application of 3D bioprinting to enhance the manufacturing process of their organs-on-chips devices, resulting in the creation of the first entirely 3D-printed organ on a chip—a heart on a chip, complete with integrated soft strain sensors.
As we witness the fusion of cutting-edge technology and biological ingenuity, the horizon of regenerative medicine expands. 3D bioprinting, with its ability to craft living tissues at an unprecedented scale, emerges as a game-changer. The Wyss Institute's strides not only promise advancements in organ engineering but also hint at a future where intricate microphysiological devices are effortlessly created, ushering in a new era of medical innovation.