Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine are closer to artificially growing organs, helped from a $9 million partnership with Maryland-based Lung Biotechnology. IU School of Medicine assistant professor of surgery Burcin Ekser and his team are trying to 3D print pig liver tissue from genetically-engineered cells.
The team would then use the printed tissue to expand new research for cross-species transplantation. Ekser was able to secure a four-year agreement with Lung Biotechnology. “This alliance with Lung Biotechnology will greatly enhance our ability to accomplish our ultimate goal of providing an unlimited supply of organs to save human lives,” Dr. Ekser said. “It’s my passion because I’m a transplant surgeon; I don’t want anyone to die while they’re waiting for a transplantable organ.”
Ekser says the research is fueled by the Cyfuse Regenova 3D bioprinter that is part of the school’s 3D Bioprinting Core. The school was one of the first in the country to get this bioprinter, and is now one of two academic institutions with the technology. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network data indicates 110,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, of whom 20 die each day. Dr. Ekser and the team have bioprinted genetically engineered pig cells and were able to supply and circulate fluid through the bioprinted pig liver model for a week. Ekser explains the research is important because it allows many different combinations of genetics to be quickly tested, which improves the probability of developing an organ patients won’t reject. “That’s the reason that we do 3D bioprinting in xenotransplantation research,” he said. “It saves lives, saves money, saves time, saves effort… and it still gives us the answers we want.”