Aspect Biosystems is a UBC venture using 3D printing technology to create human tissue. The greatest potential of 3D printing may lie in the power to print human parts, but current technology is hard to adapt for biological purposes. A group of researchers based out of Dr Konrad Walus’s UBC Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering lab think they have the right formula, and the immediate impact might be to provide a new and better way to test drugs. Ultimately, the work could lead to growing organs for human transplant.
Dr Sam Wadsworth, co-founder and director of biology of Aspect Biosystems and a research associate at the Institute for Heart and Lung Health at St. Paul’s Hospital on the BRONCH project, tries to find new ways to grow cells for research into respiratory illnesses. Aspect Biosystems researchers expect to show that bioprinted tissues can help better predict whether a drug will be effective on people, at a lower cost. Dr Wadsworth and his colleagues have discovered a technique for growing three-dimensional human airway tissues that almost exactly replicate the lung wall. Compared with the standard technique of growing sheets of cells in a dish or test tube, this is a major improvement.
The technique uses a microfluidic chip to generate a very thin gel fibre loaded with cells. The gel fibre is stacked into a 3D structure layer by layer and then incubated for several weeks to develop into tissue. One day the researchers hope to build more complex tissues for testing drugs on more complex systems that imitate the human body. For now, the team prints the airway tissues from Dr Wadsworth’s research and will soon use it to test drugs that have already gone through clinical trial. For more information on Aspect Biosystems, visit http://aspectbiosystems.com.
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
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