BMF’s New Subsidiary 3D Prints BioChips for Organ-on-a-Chip Research


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Building on its proven track record in groundbreaking projects like glaucoma stents and microneedles, Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF) launched a new subsidiary, BMF Biotechnology Inc. Headquartered in San Diego, California, the division uses the brand’s 3D printing technology to create and commercialize microfluidic chips that accurately mimic human body functions. These organ-on-a-chip platforms or BioChips will allow faster, more precise testing and research for pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, opening up new possibilities for medical progress and better patient care.

What Are BioChips?

Equipped with an integrated network of tiny channels that function similarly to blood vessels in the human body, these chips allow the flow of fluids, mimicking how nutrients and wastes are exchanged in human tissues. This is key for the development and testing of drugs and cosmetics.

Traditional drug and cosmetic testing methods usually rely on 2D cell cultures and animal models. Instead, BMF Biotechnology’s 3D printed BioChips allow researchers to study how cells and tissues behave under natural physiological states; this is mainly because the responses obtained from these chips are more like what would happen in a real human body, unlike traditional Petri dishes or animal tests that do not replicate human responses accurately.

Understanding how substances interact with human-like tissues is key to predicting how pharmaceutical and cosmetic products perform in real scenarios. These chips let researchers observe and analyze the interactions closely, helping them make more informed decisions during product development and predict patient responses.

Known for its high-precision micro-printing platforms, BMF expanded the business in 2022 by inaugurating the San Diego Research Institute, dedicated to advancing innovative microfluidic BioChips for drug discovery and cosmetic testing. Now that the initial phase of that endeavor is over, BMF Biotechnology will develop and commercialize the product.

Powered by BMF’s flagship 3D printing machines, BMF Biotechnology is creating BioChips by cultivating large-scale tissues in vitro. BMF BioChips have an integrated “vascular-mimetic” network of channels, enabling in vivo-like nutrient and waste exchange and compound delivery across the entire large tissue.

Robust tissue models, such as tumor models for assessing drug efficacy, kidney models for evaluating drug safety, and skin models for cosmetic assessments, have already been cultivated. However, one of the cornerstones of the BMF subsidiary is collaborations with global partners, which have led to the development of various other tissue models to help researchers better understand the biological mechanisms of health and disease, including liver and heart conditions, lung cancer, and endometrial cancer.

“Building on the success that BMF has had with other self-driven innovations such as the UltraThineer veneers, the launch of BMF Biotechnology Inc. represents a significant leap forward in our ability to harness the potential of 3D BioChip technology,” explained  Jennifer Sun, Chief Scientific Officer of BMF Biotechnology Inc. “With our innovative technology and approach, we aim to empower researchers with the tools they need to translate scientific discoveries into tangible therapeutic solutions that improve patient outcomes.”

Innovative Applications

BMF Biotechnology already offers two patent-pending flagship BioChips. The A10 perfusable organ-on-a-chip platform is designed to form thick, dense tissues that closely mimic those found in the human body. Central to its design are microfluidic channels that simulate blood vessels. These channels are crucial because they allow for the perfusion of nutrients and the removal of wastes, like capillaries in human tissues. BMF’s setup ensures that the cells within the chip receive a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen while waste products are efficiently removed, creating a dynamic environment similar to that in the body.

On the A10 BioChip, cells can be implanted into specialized areas to support their growth into 3D structures. The structure of the chip supports the growth of these cells into tissues that have the thickness, density, and complexity of real human tissues. This allows researchers to observe and measure tissue reactions to various substances in real-time, improving the predictability of compound effects in the human body, resulting in more accurate research, and saving time and costs for drug and cosmetic development.

A10 BioChips. Image courtesy of BMF Biotechnology Inc.

A10 BioChips have already been tested in cosmetic scenarios, particularly in testing the effectiveness of anti-aging treatments. By using the A10 BioChip for this type of experiment, researchers can see the effects of drugs in real-time and under conditions that closely mimic natural skin, speeding the development of new cosmetic treatments and making sure treatments are safe for human use before they reach the market.

Applications for A10 BioChips. Image courtesy of BMF Biotechnology Inc.

In the case of disease models, the A10 BioChip was used to study colorectal cancer by growing cancer cells into Matrigel, which mimics the human body’s environment. Over 11 days, researchers observed how these cells grow and interact, using microscopes to get a detailed view of the tissue. This setup helps scientists understand how colorectal cancer develops and how it might be treated, providing a much more realistic and controlled way to test new therapies.

The C1 BioChip provides a beginner-friendly platform for large tissue formation that is easily adaptable for various research applications. It’s ideal for researchers who may be newer to organ-on-a-chip technologies. While it also supports the growth of cancer tissues, like colorectal cancer, the C1 is more versatile for various cell cultures. It is not specifically tailored only for dense tissue formation like the A10. It’s excellent for studies requiring regular cell health monitoring and response to treatments.

C1 BioChip. Image courtesy of BMF Biotechnology Inc.

Overall, this technology strives to make more accurate tools for drug discovery and cosmetic testing but also paves the way for advances in precision medicine. BMF CEO John Kawola has been a major force in making this happen. He has been deeply involved in research supporting BMF Biotechnology and ensuring these micro-precision technologies are widely available. It brings researchers closer to new medical treatments that could change patient care.

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