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SCTIMST Sets Up 3D Bioprinting Facility

Thiruvananthapuram: The Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, has initiated cutting edge research and development in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.  The Institute had already established a basic facility for 3D Bioprinting aiming at the biofabrication of living tissues and organs where experiments are in progress. Now, a state-of-the-art 3D with capacity to deposit living cells based computer aided designs (CAD) has been installed to augment the basic capabilities available at the Institute.

Globally, there is a huge shortage of organs available for life-saving transplants. Every year, thousands of people die for want of an organ transplant. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of June 2017, only about 5200 organ donors are available as against 120000 patients waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Shortage of donors, associated risks to the donor and the high costs involved have prompted scientists and technologists to develop functional artificial organs through tissue engineering.

It is expected that the state-of-the-art facility established at SCTIMST will harbinger a whole new line of technologies and products in healthcare segment, especially with respect to the  organ transplant scenario. In addition, the Institute is also developing the ‘Bio-inks’ which are made up of living cells as well as specifically designed/tailored biomaterials for printing functional tissues.

As a first step, the institute has already developed bioinks which can be used to print functional liver tissues from hepatocytes.  Such functional liver constructs can be used in drug screening application for predicting potential liver toxicity in humans. In addition to 3D bioprinting, the facility also holds promise  in fabricating patient specific constructs that could be used for the repair of bone and cartilage tissues.

Tissue engineering attempts to address the demand-supply imbalance by creating viable replacements for damaged tissues. In the tissue engineering approach, cells isolated from the patients are grown on a biocompatible porous biomaterial called scaffold in a bioreactor to create biological substitutes. Essential growth factors and nutrients are  provided to enable the cells on the scaffold to mature into a complete tissue.

This is now possible through three-dimensional printing (3DP) technology, by which fabrication of customized and patient specific scaffolds are done in a reproducible manner. Originally conceived by Charles Hull (1986), 3D printing is a layer-by-layer additive manufacturing approach that enables fabrication of prototypes of highly complex shapes of variable sizes using metals, ceramics, plastics, composites and/or hydrogels.

When biologic materials or cells are incorporated in 3D printing, the technology is called 3D Bio-printing (3DBP). 3DBP is an advanced method of fabrication of living tissues from a cocktail of biomaterials, cells and growth supplements. In 3DBP, we can fabricate customized living tissue constructs of specific architecture based on a computer-aided design (CAD) created from medical imaging such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In 3DBP, we can use patients own cells to avoid possible tissue rejections experienced during conventional organ transplantation.

The chief advantage of 3D bioprinting is its precision in placing cells and biomolecules that would guide the tissue generation and maturation with exact functions that are expected from the tissue under consideration.  It is expected that in future, the demand for tissues and organs for transplantation can be addressed by this cutting edge technology.

It is expected that the state-of-the-art facility established at SCTIMST will harbinger a whole new line of technologies and products in healthcare segment, especially with respect to the  organ transplant scenario. In addition, the Institute is also developing the ‘Bio-inks’ which are made up of living cells as well as specifically designed/tailored biomaterials for printing functional tissues. As a first step, the institute has already developed bioinks which can be used to print functional liver tissues from hepatocytes.

Such functional liver constructs can be used in drug screening application for predicting potential liver toxicity in humans. In addition to 3D bioprinting, the facility also holds promise in fabricating patient specific constructs that could be used for the repair of bone and cartilage tissues.

 

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