Bioprinting trachea | 3DMedNet

The latest research from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (NC, USA) is the first to showcase bioprinting a tracheal tissue construct using multiple different materials.

The design of the tissue construct incorporates artificial tracheal substitutes that are printed to form regions of smooth muscle and cartilage. Mechanically the properties have been shown to be similar to human tracheal tissue.

The team who worked on this study hope that their results could lead to further improving regenerative medicine treatments for damaged trachea. 

Published in the journal, Biofabrication, the team hopes that their results could lead to further improving regenerative medicine treatments for damaged trachea.

The trachea, or windpipe, is made of muscle designed to create a strong air passage to the lungs. Conditions such as tracheal stenosis where the trachea narrows often due to inflammation or trauma currently have complicated treatments involving surgical interventions.

Previous research that has aimed to fabricate tissue engineered tracheal constructs has not been successful. This time, the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has focused on printing constructs that don’t focus on one type of tissue such as cartilage. 

Instead, three different technologies were utilized: medical imaging of the patient, hydrogels and polymeric scaffolding. Smooth muscle and cartilage regions were bioprinted simultaneously using a bioink containing a hydrogel with stem cells, designed to introduce the cells into the structure and allow them to differentiate into different muscle cells throughout the construct. 

This resulted in a cartilage section that provided mechanical support, and a smooth, flexible muscle section that allows for tracheal contraction, thus aiding in the transporting of air to the lungs.

Anthony Atala, Director of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and co-author of the research, commented:

This early proof-of-concept study shows that we can streamline bioprinting capabilities and could someday provide the opportunity for regenerative medicine treatments for the replacement of damaged or diseased tracheal regions. Next steps in the research would be to evaluate long-term function to ensure appropriate tissue formation and strength retention.”

Sources: Ke D, Yi H, Est-Witte S, George SK, Kengla CV, Atala A, Murphy S. Bioprinted trachea constructs with patient matched design, mechanical and biological properties. Biofabrication. doi: 10.1088/1758-5090/ab5354. (2019) (Epub ahead of print);

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