San Francisco bioprinting company Prellis Biologics has announced a milestone in its aim to 3D bioprint human tissues with viable blood vessel networks (or capillaries). The company claims to have “reached record speed and resolution” in their bioprinting, which enables tissues to be printed with capillary networks while ensuring that the tissue cells survive. The company’s ultimate goal is to 3D print the vascular system of a kidney in under 12 hours.
According to Prellis, its process—known as holographic 3D printing—can construct complex microvascular structures and scaffolds at fast enough rates that the cells in the printed tissue are not kept from the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive. Print speeds, says the company, has been a significant challenge for bioprinting technologies.
“A major goal in tissue engineering is to create viable human organs, but nobody could print tissue with the speed and resolution needed to form viable capillaries,” explained Melanie Matheu, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Prellis Biologics. “At Prellis, we’ve now developed that technology, paving the way for important medical advances and, ultimately, functional organ replacements.”
Impressively, Prellis boasts that it is now capable of bioprinting high-resolution tissue structures with vasculature “up to 1000 times faster” than before—previously, it says, it might have taken weeks to print a single cubic centimeter of human tissue with microvasculature. Capillaries, of course, are crucial elements to any living tissue, as they carry blood through tiny vessels and throughout the tissue, providing the necessary nutrients for cells to thrive.
“The speed we can achieve is limited only by the configuration of the optical system,” Dr. Matheu added. “We are now exploring custom optical system development, which will dramatically increase our capabilities. Our ultimate goal is to print the entire vascular system of a kidney in 12 hours or less.”
In terms of resolution, Prellis’ bioprinting platform can print resolutions as small as 0.5 microns, which enables it to produce the microscopic and intricate capillary networks. In the human body, capillaries typically measure between 5 and 10 microns in diameter, a fraction of the width of a human hair.
The resolution and speed that set Prellis’ bioprinting platform apart from others is thanks to a proprietary laser-based system. In contrast to extrusion-based bioprinters, Prellis’ approach can achieve a much faster and more precise level of printing. According to the company’s website, it successfully 3D printed an array of 105-250 micron long human capillaries in under six minutes.
“Vasculature is a key feature of complex tissues and is essential for engineering tissue with therapeutic value,” commented Todd Huffman, CEO of biomedical imaging company 3Scan. “Prellis’ advancement represents a key milestone in the quest to engineer organs.”
With its recent achievement, Prellis is moving ahead on its journey to bioprint “thick, functioning tissue” for applications in drug and toxicology testing. The end goal, of course, is to bioprint transplantable human organs.