Drug development is a costly and time consuming process, poor translation of data from pre-clinical studies to the clinic is a major contributor as late-stage drug failure is very expensive. Testing drugs in 3D tissues that better represent human organ physiology and function may help reduce the cost of drug development by improving translation to the clinic.
In order to mimic the complex heterogeneity and microstructure of tissue, we are developing a novel 3D bioprinting paradigm called Lab-on-a-PrinterTM (LOP). The LOP concept involves integration of microfluidic liquid manipulation directly with filament deposition technology, this enables rapid switching between different cell-containing bioink compositions and the ability to multiplex several materials in a single printhead.
The LOP platform technology is capable of generating multi-material cell-loaded 3D hydrogel constructs using fused filament fabrication (FFF). Our system uses co-axial flow focusing, a process whereby cells within printed fibres are protected from the damaging shear forces present in many alternative bioprinting strategies. We are thus able to use LOP to generate fibres with very high cell density while printing at high fibre speeds without sacrificing cell viability.
The LOP system can generate fibres containing a variety of extracellular matrix factors, growth factors, cytokines, and other bioactive compounds. The user can customise bioinks to optimise the cellular microenvironment in a region specific way within a single tissue construct.
I will discuss how Aspect and our collaborators are using the LOP technology to generate a variety of unique functional 3D human tissues for use as pre-clinical testing tools in indications such as asthma, hypertension, premature birth and neurodegenerative disease. Printing tissues on demand will have significant impact for regenerative medicine, I will describe how LOP technology is being used to develop implantable orthopaedic tissues to improve quality of life for patients with joint injuries.