Feb. 18, 2004 Thanks to a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, his colleagues, and a very special printing device, artificially manufacturing an organ compatible with the organism that will receive the organ is one step closer to reality.
Gabor Forgacs, a biological physicist at MU, and his research team found that given the right cues, cells will self assemble into an organ module. Forgacs’ work is documented in the article “Engineering Biological Structures of Prescribed Shape Using Self-Assembling Multicellular Systems,” which appears in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Forgacs’ lab used specially designed printing devices loaded with spherical cell aggregates (i.e. multicellular assemblies) as drops of “bio-ink” to create tubular structures. The printer first drops the aggregates in a circular shape onto a layer of gel. Another layer of the gel is added on top of the first, and the printer then repeats the process, stacking the aggregate rings. Later, the aggregates fuse to form the tube.
“A large part of the body is made of tubes,” Forgacs said. “We can now make 3-D hollow biological tubes and organ modules, which potentially could be used as grafts, or for doing research on a particular drug using an organ substitute and thus avoiding any hazard. The next step is the construction of functional organ modules, prepared outside of the living organism and then implanted into the organism.”
Forgacs says the chances of a body rejecting the new organ constructed this way would be removed because it would be assembled from the body’s own cells. The work also proves the process does not require a complete “manual” to build potential replacement organs.
“It is far too complex to build a biologically fully functional organ,” Forgacs said. “This study suggests you have to provide the proper environment and place the cell aggregates in the correct geometrical shape. After that, the biological system takes over and completes the structure.”
The researchers’ next steps are to obtain a patent for the bio-ink as well as further funding for the research. An industrial partner to help provide the printer needed to conduct future research is also needed.
More information on Forgacs’ lab can be found at http://www.missouri.edu/~forglab
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