New technology created by EPFL’s Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices (LAPD) in collaboration with Readily3D has taken biological 3D printing to the next level. Their technology has the ability to 3D bioprint miniature pancreas with blood vessels from human stem cells in just 30 seconds. The work holds major promise, and aims to become a reliable method to test diabetes drugs on a living model of the human pancreas.
“Developing a system that can print 3D tissue at the cubic centimeter scale and faithfully replicate the functioning of a live pancreas is a huge challenge, which we hope to meet with this technology,” says Christophe Moser, the head of LAPD, in a statement.
The video explains how the mini-organ is bio-printed.
The pancreas, a vital organ tucked behind the stomach, produces a wide array of enzymes and hormones that are involved in digestion and metabolism. One key hormone the pancreas secretes is insulin, which tells cells in the body to uptake sugar from the bloodstream, therefore reducing blood sugar levels. If high blood sugar is left unchecked for prolonged periods of time, it can lead to life-threatening complications.
This is a common problem for people with diabetes, where the body does not respond to insulin or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Patients are ultimately left to take drugs to elevate the situation – otherwise, they are at risk for severe health complications.
Seeing that diabetes is a major worldwide health problem, the work by the team at LAPD and Readily3D in creating feasible mini 3D bio-printed pancreas could have major advantages in the pursuit to test more personalized diabetes drugs.
Firstly, the bioprinting technology makes the organ tailor-made as it is printed using the patient's own stem cells, thus eliminating the need for animal testing.
“What’s more, patients won’t have to try out an array of drugs, some of which may have unpleasant side effects, before finding the right one for them,” says Damien Loterie, the CEO of Readily3D.
The team at LAPD and Readily3D feels that their new technology could one day also be used to print other organs and biological tissues and even support in developing treatments for cancer.
“One of the main advantages of our method is that it can create tissue in a single block, making it particularly useful for printing soft tissue like organs,” Paul Delrot, the CTO of Readily3D concludes.