3D bioprinting is a pretty large category, and it isn’t just about manufacturing organs. Scientists and researchers all over the world are using 3D printing technology to build tissue lattices, matrices, and scaffolds, for the purpose of regenerating living tissue or engineering it. Recently, a research team from The George Washington University’s School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS) published a research paper about the work they’re doing to 3D print artificial nerve tissues to treat patients suffering from bone and nerve damage. The goal of the team’s research is to help patients with tissue damage that’s been caused by immune system diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Tissue scaffold

Wei Zhu, a graduate student research in SEAS, said, “I believe my research is very interesting, and I believe someday that tissue engineering can save many, many people’s lives and improve many people’s life quality. I believe it will have a very, very broad application in certain areas.”

Science and Engineering Hall

The research team, working with 3D printers at the university’s Science and Engineering Hall (SEH), has been using biodegradable materials to create synthetic tissue, designed to offer temporary support to a diseased or injured organ while new tissue forms; the team hopes that their innovative 3D printing use will allow patients with tissue damage to recover more quickly. Zhu said they are hoping to develop artificial substitutes that will actually replace injured human tissue.

Zhu explained that they have been trying out different varieties of tissues on the 3D printer, such as artificial bone, neural, and cartilage tissue substitutes. But most often, they use a synthetic polymer.

“We are pioneers actually in this field. And we actually try a lot of different 3D printing techniques and different tissue regeneration,” Zhu said.

The use of biodegradable materials would let the lab-created tissue to degrade over time inside the human body, while the patient’s natural tissue healed concurrently.

Zhu explained, “The goal is the scaffold will disappear in the human body with the formation of new tissue. The new tissue will be your own cells.”

Zhu, along with doctoral student Jonathan George and SEAS professors Volker Sorger and Lijie Grace Zhang, published a study, titled “3D printing scaffold coupled with low level light therapy for neural tissue regeneration,” in the Biofabrication journal. The results of the study showed that a 3D printed artificial structure would mimic healthy tissue as new cells multiplied in a damaged area. A red laser light, provided by Sorger’s lab, was used to activate the neural stem cells on the 3D printed tissue; cell growth was promoted by a combination of synthetic and natural tissues.

According to the abstract, “3D printing has shown promise for neural regeneration by providing customized nerve scaffolds to structurally support and bridge the defect gap as well as deliver cells or various bioactive substances. Low-level light therapy (LLLT) exhibits positive effects on rehabiliation of degenerative nerves and neural disorders. With this in mind, we postulate that 3D printed neural scaffold coupling with LLLT will generate a new strategy to repair neural degeneration. To achieve this goal, we applied red laser light to stimualte neural stem cells on 3D printed scaffolds and investigated the subsequent cell response with respect to cell proliferation and differentiation. Here we show that cell prolifeartion rate and intracellular reactive oxgen species synthesis were significantly increased after 15 s laser stimulation follwed by 1 d culture. Over culturing time of 14 d in vitro, the laser stimulation promoted neuronal differentiation of neural stem cells, while the glial differentiation was suppressed based on results of both immunocytochemistry studies and real-time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction testing. These findings suggest that integration of 3D printing and LLLT might provide a powerful methodology for neural tissue engineering.”

Se-jun Lee, a doctoral student studying materials science and tissue engineering, is working with a group of researchers in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to use 3D printers to build artificial nerve tissues in hopes of treating patients with nerve and bone damage. [Image: Bridie O’Connell / The GW Hatchet]

Doctoral student Se-jun Lee, studying tissue engineering and materials science, was interested in the research because he wanted to find a way to combine biological and neurosciences with engineering. Lee explained that when synthetic tissues are manufactured for softer damaged tissues and injured joints, researchers use malleable materials like collagen and gelatin; however, for cartilage and bones, the synthetic material has to be rigid. While the damaged tissues should interact with the synthetic ones for the process to work, Lee explained that a difficulty researchers face is doing so in a way that doesn’t cause the patient to suffer any inflammation.

Lee said, “The one thing you have to think about is the mechanical properties of the scaffold. You have to withhold all those mechanical strengths, the pressures, the walking, just standing, all those pressures you have to endure.”

The research project was a collaboration between Sorger’s lab and Zhang. Funding was provided for the research by the university, the US Army, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.

What do you think of this approach? Discuss in the 3D Printed Nerve Tissue forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: The GW Hatchet]

 

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