A team of scientists from Carnegie Mellon University have achieved a breakthrough in bioprinting, taking us a step closer to printing functional organs. The research consisted of using an advanced version of FluidForm’s Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) technology to rebuild components of the human heart.
Recently published in the journal Science, the Carnegie-led research project showcased the ability to 3D print collagen with “unprecedented complexity” to construct various parts of the human heart, including small blood vessels, valves and beating ventricles. The breakthrough was made possible using FRESH technology, a patented bioprinting process licensed to FluidForm.
FluidForm was first formed out of a research project at Carnegie Mellon’s Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics Group to bring to market and commercialize the innovative FRESH bioprinting technique. The platform uses a needle-deposition system to print bioinks and other soft materials. The process is unique for using the “power of non-newtonian gels to allow movement through a material like it’s a liquid, while supporting deposited material like it’s a solid.”
In other words, the FRESH process uses an embedded printing method that uses a temporary support gel to print complexly structured scaffolds from biomaterials such as collagen. The approach makes it possible to print soft materials into defined, bio-inspired structures without the risk of sag or gravity-induced deformation.
“We now have the ability to build constructs that recapitulate key structural, mechanical, and biological properties of native tissues,” commented Professor Adam Feinberg, CTO and co-founder of FluidForm, and Principal Investigator of the Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics Group at Carnegie Mellon. “There are still many challenges to overcome to get us to bioengineered 3D organs, but this research represents a major step forward.”
In the recent breakthrough, the Carnegie Mellon research team—led by FluidForm’s other two co-founders, Andrew Lee and Andrew Hudson—bioprinted hearts based on human MRI data. The patient-specific anatomical data was reproduced using the FRESH platform, which enabled the team to assess the viability of the process.
The research team found that the bioprinted heart’s smaller cardiac ventricles (printed with human cardiomyocytes) demonstrated synchronized contractions, directional action potential propagation and wall-thickening up to 14% during peak systole.
The proof-of-concept bioprinted heart did also highlight some challenges that remain. For instance, there is still work to be done to enable the generation of billions of cells needed to bioprint larger tissues. Other notable hurdles to the bioprinting process are achieving manufacturing scale and establishing regulatory clinical guidelines.
Still, the research team is understandably very excited about its recent bioprinting breakthrough, as it showcases the potential of the FRESH process to print collagen and other soft biomaterials into advanced scaffolds.
“FluidForm is extraordinarily proud of the research done in the Feinberg lab” said Mike Graffeo, CEO of FluidForm. “The FRESH technique developed at Carnegie Mellon University enables bioprinting researchers to achieve unprecedented structure, resolution, and fidelity, which will enable a quantum leap forward in the field. We are very excited to be making this technology available to researchers everywhere.”
FluidForm is beginning the commercialization of its FRESH platform through its first official product: LifeSupport bioprinting support gel. The temporary support gel is being marketed to researchers exploring 3D printing using collagen, cells and other biomaterials.