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Human stem cells 'printed' in 3D

09 November 2015

By Jessica Richardson

Appeared in BioNews 827

Scientists have reported on a method that allows successful 3D bioprinting of adult stem cells.

The technique is intended to produce 3D tissues and miniature organs in the lab, which could be used in medical research or, clinically, to identify the best treatment for a particular patient. It could also one day be used to produce tissues for implantation.

'The ability to bioprint stem cells while either maintaining their pluripotency, their ability to develop into all types of cells in the body, or indeed directing their differentiation into specific cell types, will pave the way for producing organoids, or tissues on demand, from patient-specific cells,' said Dr Wenmiao Shu of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

'These could then be used for animal-free drug development and personalised medicine,' he added.

Researchers have previously used the technique with embryonic stem cells, but their use poses ethical issues and could also result in rejection if used to produce tissues for transplantation. By contrast, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be derived from a patient's own somatic cells, overcoming these challenges.

In a study published in Biofabrication, Dr Shu, whose team previously created a 3D printer that could 'print' hESCs, modified the technique to allow iPSCs to be printed. They showed that the cells were able to maintain their pluropotency after printing. They were also able to successfully differentiate into liver-like cells and expressed markers indicative of liver function.

In another study, published in the same journal, researchers from Tsinghua University, China, and Drexel University in Pennsylvania, demonstrated the use of bioprinting to produce 3D 'embryoids' using embryonic stem cells.

The researchers used 3D bioprinting to lay out embryonic stem cells into a 3D cell-laden hydrogel construct. Following the procedure, they found that approximately 90 percent of cells were viable and continued to function as expected, maintaining their pluripotency.

'Our next step is to find out more about how we can vary the size of the embryoid body by changing the printing and structural parameters, and how varying the embryoid body size leads to "manufacture" of different cell types,' said Rui Yao of Tsinghua University, who was a co-author on the paper.

Professor Wei Sun, lead of the team at Tsinghua University, said that in the longer term the team plans to enable different cell types to develop next to each other. '[This] would lead the way for growing micro-organs from scratch within the lab,' he said.


02 May 2017 - by Sarah Gregory 
New brain organoids have been created to show development of both healthy human brain cells and those associated with genetic disorders...
30 January 2017 - by Anna Leida 
Spanish scientists have made a prototype 3D bioprinter that can create functional human skin...
17 October 2016 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
Vitamins A and C help to convert adult cells into stem cells by performing a cell 'reset', erasing their epigenetic memory, a study has found...
18 July 2016 - by Arit Udoh 
A group of international scientists have announced plans to work collaboratively on a research project that aims to develop human cancer models that would better mimic the disease...
22 February 2016 - by Kulraj Singh Bhangra 
Researchers in the USA have designed a 3D printer that can build living cells around a biodegradable structure to construct various artificial tissues...

24 August 2015 - by Dr Julia Hill 
For the first time, an almost fully formed human brain has been grown in the lab, according to scientists from Ohio State University...
20 July 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
Scientists have grown miniature brains out of stem cells from people with autism, and have found that they over-produce one type of neuron...
03 November 2014 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
Scientists in the USA have for the first time created three-dimensional stomach tissue from human pluripotent stem cells...
08 July 2013 - by James Brooks 
Stem cells generated from adult cells have been used to grow tiny 'liver buds' which were then successfully transplanted into mice...
11 February 2013 - by Michelle Downes 
For the first time human embryonic stem cells have been used in a 3D printing process and retained the properties that make them unique...

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