Australian scientists are making a breakthrough in 3D printing of functional human tissues

A team of Australian scientists from the University of Sydney and the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) in Westmead have developed a method of creating functional human tissues that are able to precisely imitate the architecture of a given organ. The new technique is based on photolithographic 3D printing. Scientists have used bioengineering and cell culture techniques to “instruct” stem cells taken from blood and skin to specialize. The cells can then form spatial structures resembling organs. The research team is now focusing on developing their technique to advance it in the field of regenerative medicine and look for new treatments for a range of diseases.

The project was led by Professor Hala Zreiqat and Dr Peter Newman from Biomedical Engineering at the University of Sydney, and Professor Patrick Tam, who heads the CMRI Embryology Research Unit. They described their achievements in the article titled: “Programming multicellular patterns using mechano-chemically microstructural cellular niches,” which was published in the journal Advanced Science.

Cells require detailed instructions in the form of strategically placed proteins and mechanical triggers to build tissues. According to Dr. Newman, without these specific instructions, cells are likely to cluster in unpredictable and imprecise ways. “Our method serves as an instruction manual for cells, enabling them to create tissues that are more organized and more like their natural counterparts. This is an important step towards the possibility of 3D printing working tissues and organs,” commented Professor Hala Zreiqat.

In this study, scientists used a novel 3D photolithography printing technique to generate microscopic mechanical and chemical signals that guide cells into precise and organized organ-like structures. The technique was used to create a bone-fat complex resembling the structure of bones. This method also produced a set of tissues resembling the processes occurring in the early development of mammals.

“In the past, stem cells were grown to produce many cell types, but we could not control how they differentiated and arranged into three-dimensional structures,” commented Professor Tam. “Thanks to bioengineering technology, we can now direct stem cells to form specific cell types and organize them appropriately in time and space, thus replicating the actual development of an organ.”

Moreover, this study offers the potential for the development of cell and gene therapy. The ability to generate desired cell types may facilitate the production of clinically relevant stem cells for therapeutic applications. “This method has huge practical implications. For example, in regenerative medicine, where there is an urgent need for organ transplantation, further research using this approach could facilitate the growth of functional tissues in the laboratory,” explained Professor Hala Zreiqat.

The researchers particularly hope that their findings could help treat vision loss caused by macular degeneration and inherited diseases that lead to the loss of photoreceptor cells in the retina. ‘If we can bioengineer a piece of the cells and see how the whole system works, we can explore therapies that use functional cells to replace cells in the eye lost to disease,’ said Professor Tam. “It would have a huge impact if we could deliver healthy cells to the eye. Whether the macula (the area of the retina responsible for central vision) was lost due to an inherited disease or trauma, the treatment would be the same.

Source: via

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