Stem cell research applications move forward with 3D Bioprinting

Bioprinting is becoming widely used not only in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications but also in many other biomedical fields such as cancer research, as recently discussed on the Biogelx blog (see article). Thus, it is not surprising that scientists are now focusing on using this tool for novel approaches in stem cell research as well.

A recent article by Stephanie Willerth from University of Victoria in Canada describes advances in printing stem cells (particularly hiPSCs) by microfluidic extrusion and discusses the opportunities these advances open for high-throughput production of hiPSC-derived neural tissues. Willerth explains how these tissues can then be utilized for screening drug candidates for Alzheimer’s disease; which is yet another example of how bioprinting is becoming important in drug development.

Another innovative application of bioprinting as an enabling tool in stem cell research is the development of novel treatments for cardiac injury. Michael Davis from Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology has worked extensively with stem cells and focuses his research in solving pediatric congenital heart defects using bioprinting technology combined with the reparative properties of stem cells. Scientists at Davis’ lab are working on a 3D printable patch which contains stem cells that will repair the surrounding damaged cardiac tissue when inserted into place. The group is also using bioprinting to create heart valves using skin cells from patients, thus minimizing the risk of organ rejection. Importantly for pediatric patients, this also allows the organ to grow with the patient, which means that a replacement will not be needed in the future.

In summary, the bioprinting of stem cells is being increasingly recognized as an innovative tool with extensive applications in biomedicine. Whilst the promise of such techniques is undeniable, it is important to remember that the bioinks utilized and several other factors in the printing process (as well as the culture period post printing) will be key to their success. Such factors can influence stem cells viability, differentiation, and function, so they should be carefully considered for future applications.

You can read a 2018 review of stem cell bioprinting technology here.

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