General, Research, Technology

For the first time in history, scientists printed a trachea on a bioprinter

When the first 3D printers appeared, few couldeven speculate how far this technology will go. Of course, conventional means for three-dimensional printing have already found their application in the production of various equipment and even in the construction of houses. However, doctors have come up with a completely different application of 3D printing. For quite some time now you can “charge” cells into special bioprinters, but few people managed to print full-fledged organs on such a printer. Some of the pioneers are scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM), who were the first to report the use of bioprinting to create a fully functional trachea.

Bioprinting technology is getting better!

How to print an organ on a 3D printer

Previous attempts to create tracheal tissue havethere are many different limitations, mainly because they focused only on the use of cartilage. The design of the trachea, created by scientists from WFIRM, is unique in that it was created immediately taking into account the fact that it will be a full-fledged organ - that is, there are both parts of the cartilage and smooth muscles. As a framework, a biodegradable material is used, on which a hydrogel containing human stem cells is applied. They can divide and become different types of cells. In this case, stem cells differentiate into two different types - chondrocytes (cartilages are formed from them) and myocytes (the basis of smooth muscles).

At the same time, part of the resulting cartilage is tough,in order to provide mechanical support to the future organ and prevent “collapse”, and the part is soft, which, along with smooth muscles, provides some mobility. Muscles also connect the ends of the cartilage rings, providing flexibility to shorten the airways. If you are interested in the topic of bioprinting, we recommend subscribing to our channel in Telegram. There are regular news on this topic and more.

Before that, scientists tried to print a trachea, butthe problem was that they took only one material that was not strong enough to keep the airways open, but this did not provide the necessary flexibility. Our bioprinting method provides the combination of flexibility and strength needed to mimic real tracheal tissue. - said Sean Murphy, PhD, lead author and associate professor of regenerative medicine at WFIRM.

The process of creating a trachea on a bioprinter

Why do we need an artificial trachea?

Trachea is a hollow tube thatmade of cartilage and smooth muscle tissue, designed to ensure airway patency. Tracheal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the trachea that can be caused by prolonged intubation, inflammation and trauma, or it can be a congenital anomaly. Surgery is the main treatment for this condition, which is life threatening, but it is very difficult to completely restore the patency of the trachea.

See also: In Chicago, printed a human mini-heart

The WFIRM Scientist Approach Combines Threespecially developed technologies: medical imaging of the patient’s trachea, the use of hydrogels designed to differentiate stem cells, and polymer skeletons imitating the specific biomechanical properties of the organ. Thus, it is possible to create a trachea "for a specific person" with all its anatomical features. Of course, while the trachea transplant has not yet taken place, after all, additional studies need to be done (for starters on laboratory animals). But the existing result inspires optimism.