Indiana University School of Medicine researchers, backed by a $9 million private-sector partnership, are using genetically-engineered pig liver cells to 3D-print tissue that may one day be used for human organ and tissue transplants. The collaboration with Maryland-based Lung Biotechnology PBC was announced in early-May. Assistant Professor of Surgery Burcin Ekser, who leads the IUSM research lab dealing with cross-species transplantation, said artificially growing organs could eventually eliminate the often deadly wait for organs from humans.
In an interview with Business of Health Reporter Kylie Veleta in our Life Sciences INdiana enewsletter, Ekser said pairing with a private-sector partner is important. "Especially in science, the key is collaboration, and that will definitely bring us the outcomes we want," he said. The trade-off, Ekser adds, involves Lung Biotechnology PBC providing the funding and the IU team providing the knowledge, discoveries and technology — which includes a type of 3D bioprinter that is found in only one other academic laboratory in the U.S. Both parties are pushing for a future with organs on-demand.
Researchers are printing tissue that is considered "scaffold-free" or able to stand up without the support of equipment. Currently, the IU team has created mouse-sized livers from the pig cells that are pumped with human blood. Over time, they will work to increase the size of their liver models.
Ekser says each success in research steadily moves the IU team forward.
Ekser says partnering with private companies is a critical strategy to advance academic research from the lab to the patient’s bedside.