I went to this conference for two main reasons. The first was to talk with a company that was selling a 3D Bioprinter. The 2nd was to listen to the lectures and presentations by the leading edge researchers in this field to see if anything that they are working on can be applied to what we are doing here.
Here is what I can say.
Every single industry, field, or niche has a few people who become very important in their chosen area of expertise. From this one conference, I did find out who are the main people we should be focusing on and following.
- Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Bonassar
- Dr. Anthony Atala
- Dr. Warren Grayson
It turns out that a Dr. Jason Spector who was a speaker at the conference giving his talk “Tissue Engineering, Bioprinting, and the “Reconstructive Ladder”” alluded to the fact that he was working with Dr. Bonassar on research with MSCs (Mesenchymal Stem Cells) to develop cartilage, whether it be fibrocartilage or hyaline cartilage. When I was listening to him, the name sounded very familiar until I realized that I saw the name before and actually wrote a big post on the work being done by Dr. Bonassar’s team in Cornell where they grew an implantable spinal disc. Refer to the post “This Researcher Succeeded In 3D-Printing Spinal Discs Allowing Adults With Closed Growth Plates To Grow Taller If They Desired – Big Breakthrough“. Dr Bonassar’s work and his Lab should be one of the primary focuses for us.
The other speaker that spoke about relevant information was a Dr. Paul Gatenholm (talk was “3D Bioprinting of Human Cartilage and Skin with Novel Bioink”, who apparently was a protege/student of Dr. Atala. He has a company CellLink where his son works at which has produced a type of bioink that is used in 3D Bioprinters. This bioink acts as the medium that stem cells would go into which is something similar to Hydrogel/Alginate/Extracellular Matrix/Scaffold. It is made from a derivative of cellulose.
Dr. Atala is sort of a super-star in the field of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and cartilage generation. He has been alluded to multiple times in the conference and I had referenced his research before as well on this website. Refer to the post ” Increase Height And Grow Taller Through Bioprinting And Electrospinning“. If you read this previous post, you would see that there was a Youtube video of Gabor Forgacs, who explained the revolution in regenerative medicine. He was the speaker at this recent conference which started everything off.
There was a third speaker Rahul Tare (talk was “Application of Custom-Built Acousto-fluidic Perfusion Bioreactor for Cartilage Tissue Engineering” who revealed that he was also working with MSCs to engineer cartilage tissue.
It turns out that this conference I went to has people associated with the big players in this field. Most people there already knew each other.
In terms of the technical, I realized that bioprinting cartilage tissue that can be implanted back into the body is an endeavor which is probably impossible. In a discussion with Dr. Michael Gelinsky, he did not think that bioprinting a hyaline cartilage was viable at least for a long time. However, the idea of slowly developing chondrogenic tissue from implanted autologous chondrocytes and/or MSCs into a scaffold is probable, if not very doable. If Dr. Teplyashin’s group’s results are any indication, this step has already been done.
The problem which the researchers were trying to solve was over vascularization. Vascularization was the main problem that people who want to bioprint organs need to figure out. It was the bottleneck.
The other problem is over regulations. It turns out that many of the most scientifically advanced countries who are working in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine will not allow organs be implanted into the patients body.
Here are the list of 3D Bioprinters that I found out about.
- BioBots (3d Bioprinter)
- RegenHu 3d Bioprinter
- EnvisionTec Bioprinter
- Organovo’s 3D Printer
- Regenovo (China based)
- Qingdao Unique Products 3D Bioprinter
- Izumi International Inc (Deposition Machine turned into 3D Printer)
Some of the models were cheap but some were extraordinarily expensive.
Some others things I realized that I made a mistake on was to forget about the step of bioreactor. You need a bioreactor for the implanted cells into a culture or scaffold, with the growth factors, to proliferate in numbers. Dr. Spector revealed that to get the MSCs to differentiated into a tissue that is actually worth something, you need at least 200 million cells to work with. Anything less and the tissue that has been formed is not really enough.
So to make a correction on the steps, it would be
- 1. Biopsy of bone marrow to get MSCs/ Extract part of the iliac crest for chondrocytes
- 2. Use collagenase to dissolve the ECM around your desired cells
- 3. Spin the solution to separate the cells from the other compounds
- 4. Get the right type of cell medium (alginate, hydrogel, etc.) to put the cells in.
- 5. Instead of medium, it could be a scaffold shaped in whatever way you want.
- 6. Add some type of growth factor into the scaffold to help the cells differentiate or proliferate.
- 7. Put it into a bioreactor to make the cells proliferate.
- 8. Induce vascularization in the tissue (this is the tough part)
- 9. Take the scaffold/medium out and implant the grown tissue back into the person’s body. Wait until vascularization occurs to connect the new implant with the rest of the patient’s body.
Notice how I did not say bioprinting anywhere. Remember that there is more than 1 way to get the stem cells/chondrocyte implantation to work.
There is actually 2 ways to do this.
- You can use a 3D Bioprinter to bioprint a fully functional growth plate, with the chondrocytes inside in columnar structure form
- You can put extracted MSCs or chondrocytes into a scaffold (hard structure) and grow it into a bioreactor. You eventually implant the scaffold between the bones and wait for the scaffold to slowly turn into a hyaline cartilage layer of tissue ala pseudo-epiphyseal plate cartilage.
The 1st way is going to be very difficult, but not impossible. The 2nd way is not as “clean” but it should work.
There will be more conferences in the coming months worth looking into. They are….
- 2015 4th Termis Tissue Engineering World Conference – Dr. Atala will be a keynote speaker there.
- Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering Gordon Research Conference – Dr. Warren Grayson will be a speaker there.
- Tissue Engineering, Synthetic Biology & Bioprinting (2016) – by SelectBio
- Innovations in Cell-Based Regenerative Therapies Conference (MSC 2015) –
What you sort of realize as you go down the list of speakers and attendees is that the same people was at this conference too. Eventually after so many conferences you meet the same 300 people over and over again.