3D Printed “Trachea” Using Stem Cells From Patients
Studies on bioprinting typically rely on (stem) cells and biopolymers to construct artificial organs, blood vessels and other living structures, and could theoretically revolutionize the medical world and specifically organ transplantation. While patients can nowadays spend years on waiting lists for organ transplants (and often die while waiting), the idea is that in the near future a replacement organ can simply be built and grown in a laboratory. Several studies, from Boston, to Russia and Japan, are currently looking into the possibilities of growing entire organs, though it will likely take years before their results can start making a difference.
That’s exactly why this new initative from the Philippines is so interesting, as they have managed to create a 3D bioprinter that can be practically used in about four years’ time. While much of the work has been done by students, this week representatives from the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), engineers from the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP), and representatives from the Genomic Institute of Asia (GINA) and Pharma Canada Ltd. signed an agreement to further develop the technology for practical use.
The focus of the students, and of the new agreement, is on artificial tracheas, an organ with a relatively simple structure that should be easy to recreate using bioprinting technology. As dr. Jose Luis Danguilan, Executive Director of the LCP, told reporters: ‘Our technology is cutting-edge. If we are successful in its clinical applications, we may be at par with the advanced nations in this new field.’
Like so many bio-printing initiatives, their 3D printing ‘bioreactor’ will use a bio-ink as ‘filament’ that includes stem cells from the patient for whom the trachea is made for. This will form the scaffolding on which the trachea is grown. This should ensure that the chances of the implant being rejected is far lower, as the body will recognize the cells as its own.
The bioreactor has already been designed and built by students and researchers from the TIP. It should, they hope, also be suitable to create more complicated organs such as kidneys in the near future. Dr. Danguilan went on to express his optimism about its practical potential. ‘If properly supported, an artificial trachea could be made available in the country in the next 3-4 years,’ he said. ‘Each day there are important new steps from scientists and hospitals all over the world achieving these goals.’