Dimension Inx Awarded DoD Grant for Bioprinting “Trachea That Repairs Itself”

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Biomaterial company Dimension Inx has been awarded $240,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop solutions for tracheal injuries. The goal is to create a structure that not only temporarily replaces the trachea, but permanently helps repair it.

The trachea is a complex cartilage structure in the neck that keeps the airway open and clear. Injuries to the trachea can cause the windpipe to collapse, making immediate medical care extremely important. In addition to these immediate concerns, there are often long-term complications of tracheal injuries. The trachea is at a “crossroads” for the human body, near important structures like the esophagus, the vagus nerve, and several important arteries and veins. While printed tracheas have existed for almost ten years, the long-term complications remain a problem.

Dimensions Inx specializes in long-term “regenerative” materials that mimic the body’s natural composition. In 2018, they developed 3D printed “hyperelastic bones” that can grow with the body. Last year, they raised $3.175 million in seed financing to speed up the development of 3D-printed implants to help in facial reconstruction. Now, they’re working on a tracheal treatment that works for both emergency treatment and long-term therapy.

A figure from a Dimension Inx paper on inmplanting a bioprinted bone implant into a rat. Image courtesy of Science Translational Medicine.

“Our technology platform allows us to create unique, microstructurally-driven materials and structures that account for the complex multi-tissue environment of the trachea,” said Dr. Adam Jakus, Chief Technology Officer at Dimensions Inx. “This is critical for promoting healthy tissue regeneration and restoring the original tissue functions.”

The new 18-month project will investigate how to mimic the complex environment of the trachea, combining a printed construct with a new hydrogel to promote healing. Dimension Inx’s team will be focusing on the trachea, but they also want to develop a new approach for 3D printing soft tissue structures as a whole, including the esophagus, larynx, and facial cartilage repair.

Utilizing extrusion 3D printing and a novel formulation of hydroxyapatite, engineers at Dimension Inx have designed a construct with a composition and microarchitecture that promotes bone formation.

The tracheal focus is in line with the grant awarder: The U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Development Command (MRDC). Headquartered in Fort Derrick, the MRDC is specifically responsible for ensuring that US armed forces “remain in optimal health and are equipped to protect themselves from disease and injury, particularly on the battlefield.” Tracheal injuries frequently happen as a result of blunt-force trauma, a serious concern in battlefield medicine.

“Tissue engineering and cell therapy hold promise for providing much needed solutions for these patients,” said project co-investigator Daniel Weiss, Professor of Medicine at the University of Vermont and project co-investigator. “This award will advance our early work toward addressing a significant unmet medical problem.”

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