Sunday, February 16, 2014

3D Bio-printing: Changing how we counter the threat of biological warfare and terrorism


As 3D bioprinting edges closer to revolutionizing the bio-pharmaceutical industry, battlefield medicine, public health infrastructures and a host of other fields, Organovo is by far the leader in 3D bioprinting, printing the first liver tissue for testing and creating strips of liver tissue  within a single plate. In 2012, Organoovo printed the first human blood vessel without the use of scaffolds. A deeper description is provided by Christopher Barnatt of Explainingthefuture.com: 

"Since 2008, Organovo has worked with a company called Invetech to create acommercial bioprinter called the NovoGen MMX. This is loaded with bioink spheroids that each contain an aggregate of tens of thousands of cells. To create its output, the NovoGen first lays down a single layer of a water-based bio-paper made from collagen, gelatin or other hydrogels. Bioink spheroids are then injected into this water-based material. As illustrated below, more layers are subsequently added to build up the final object. Amazingly, Nature then takes over and the bioink spheroids slowly fuse together. As this occurs, the biopaper dissolves away or is otherwise removed, thereby leaving a final bioprinted body part or tissue.

bioprinting stages

As Organovo have demonstrated, using their bioink printing process it is not necessary to print all of the details of an organ with a bioprinter, as once the relevant cells are placed in roughly the right place Nature completes the job. This point is powerfully illustrated by the fact that the cells contained in a bioink spheroid are capable of rearranging themselves after printing. For example, experimental blood vessels have been bioprinted using bioink spheroids comprised of an aggregate mix of endothelial, smooth muscle and fibroblast cells. Once placed in position by the bioprint head, and with no technological intervention, the endothelial cells migrate to the inside of the bioprinted blood vessel, the smooth muscle cells move to the middle, and the fibroblasts migrate to the outside.

In more complex bioprinted materials, intricate capillaries and other internal structures also naturally form after printing has taken place. The process may sound almost magical. However, as Professor Forgacs explains, it is no different to the cells in an embryo knowing how to configure into complicated organs. Nature has been evolving this amazing capability for millions of years. Once in the right places, appropriate cell types somehow just know what to do.

In December 2010, Organovo create the first blood vessels to be bioprinted using cells cultured from a single person. The company has also successfully implanted bioprinted nerve grafts into rats, and anticipates human trials of bioprinted tissues by 2015. However, it also expects that the first commercial application of its bioprinters will be to produce simple human tissue structures for toxicology tests. These will enable medical researchers to test drugs on bioprinted models of the liver and other organs, thereby reducing the need for animal tests.

In time, and once human trials are complete, Organovo hopes that its bioprinters will be used to produce blood vessel grafts for use in heart bypass surgery. The intention is then to develop a wider range of tissue-on-demand and organs-on-demand technologies. To this end, researchers are now working on tiny mechanical devices that can artificially exercise and hence strengthen bioprinted muscle tissue before it is implanted into a patient." See:http://www.explainingthefuture.com/bioprinting.html  

Researchers at Human Methodist Research Institute have developed a more efficient way to create cells called Block Cell Printing. This process allows 100 percent of the cells to live instead of the current 50 to 80 percent which normally survive during the current process. http://www.techrepulblic.com/article/10-industries-3d-printing-will -disrupt-or-decimate. While this technology is exciting from a number of perspectives, it could also prove highly efficacious in countering bio-terrorism and or bio-warfare agents. If a highly pathogenic disease were to be released, the ability to swiftly print vaccine or medical counter measures on site would certainly have a higher chance of successful containment and at a far earlier stage, than currently exists today with logistic challenges. From a bio-defence perspective, it's the pace not the space that makes the difference. 3D bio-printing will very likely change our concept of disease prevention and containment and is particularly well suited to counter bio-terrorism or bio-warfare where response time is critical to countering a planned, multi target strike. In more discreet ways bio-printing is likely to change how we conduct issues such as epidemiological tracebacks and will effect crisis management and  policy decisions.

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