Loveland-made 3D printers could eventually help build human organs

Loveland-based 3D printer manufacturer Aleph Objects announced Wednesday that it had teamed up with a company in a collaboration that eventually could lead to 3D printing of human organs.

Working with Massachusetts-based FluidForm, Aleph has modified its LulzBot Mini 2 desktop printer to enable it to 3D-print liquids including the building blocks of human tissue in a process called bioprinting.

“We’re not going to see bioprinted hearts in people in three or four years; that’s still a fantasy,” FluidForm CEO Mike Graffeo said in a phone interview Wednesday. But it’s possibility down the road, he said.

Loveland-based 3D printer manufacturer Aleph Objects provided this photo of a piece of an artery that was created in a petri dish with a LulzBot printer.

In fact, Graffeo said, “the biggest emphases in bioprinting today line up with the biggest needs in transplants: heart, lung, liver, kidney and eyeball.”

“When I was an undergraduate, with the first notion of tissue-engineered organs, everyone got excited and said we would have them in 10 years. It’s been 25 years, and we don’t,” Graffeo said. “But now … finally we have a line of sight of how to do it.”

Graffeo, a veteran of the medical device industry, and FluidForm chief technology officer Adam Feinberg, a biomedical engineer and assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, knew each other in college, Graffeo said, and they reconnected about a year and a half ago. They formed FluidForm last year to commercialize the results of Feinberg’s research in the lab, including advances in bioprinting.

The technology of 3D printing involves a highly accurate print head laying down layer after layer of material, usually a plastic, to create something. In bioprinting, the print head is replaced by a syringe with a needle that deposits layers of what is called “bioink.”

A biological “scaffold”

Graffeo explained that the human body is made up of two main things besides water: “cells and the stuff that keeps the cells in place — the extracellular matrix.”

This matrix is “the scaffold around the cells that holds them where they belong,” he said.

With substances such as collagen, FluidForm 3D-prints biological scaffolds using its FRESH technique, which stands for Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels.

On these scaffolds, stem cells can be applied that will regenerate into tissues to help heal wounds and rebuild joints, and much more.

“That’s really hard to do because collagen is a liquid in a syringe,” Graffeo said, so if applied to a surface, “it would be a puddle.”

That’s where a breakthrough material from FluidForm comes in. Called LifeSupport, the gel-like material is placed in a petri dish, and the printer’s needle creates a three-dimensional structure in the gel. The medium holds up the bioink as it’s laid down into the appropriate shape.

When the LifeSupport gel is warmed, it melts away, leaving the 3D bioprinted structure.

A video on the FluidForm website shows a LulzBot printer creating a piece of an artery.

While other labs and companies are using bioinks that are available from various vendors, FluidForm is the only maker of a …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Business


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