3D Printed Organs are on the Horizon, and they are Made with Horseradish?

3D Organ Printing Technology Break Through by Osaka University

One has to wonder what age we are in when 3D printed organs are on the verge of becoming a reality. Yup, that’s right bio-printers are a thing, they are already making skin, and vascular tissue. Current technology only allows for flat or hollow tissue to be printed, these processes will often use the organ recipients own cells to produce the living tissue.

But, new research into inkjet organ printing, yes “inkjet organ printing” may have made it easier to print larger 3d organs. Though there are still several factors that need to be over come to print large 3d organs, they appear to be right around the corner.

Scientists at Osaka University have discovered an improved method for making printing materials stick together as they drop one drop of material onto another. The researchers have developed an enzyme-driven method to glue biological ink together. This breakthrough will allow a larger range of cell types to be used in the bio-printing process.

The New 3d Organ Printing Process Uses an Enzyme Found in Horseradish

Previous printing methods had used a binding material called sodium alginate, a polysaccharid extract from brown seaweed. This binding material, according to the researchers limited the range of cells that could be used. The new binding agent uses an enzyme called horseradish peroxidase. When combined with hydrogen peroxide in a hydrogelation process, this enzyme can be used to bind groups of bio-printing material together.

In the words of the Lead author, Shinji Sakai “Printing any kind of tissue structure is a complex process. The bio-ink must have low enough viscosity to flow through the inkjet printer, but also needs to rapidly form a highly viscose gel-like structure when printed. Our new approach meets these requirements while avoiding sodium alginate. In fact, the polymer we used offers excellent potential for tailoring the scaffold material for specific purposes.”

Like it or not, 3d bio-printed organs are quickly becoming a reality. Stranger still they are using simple inkjet technology to build organs out of biological inks, drop by drop.

In my opinion it would be better to take care of the organs you have in the first place. The implications of these organs will not be known for decades to come. Though this is an undeniably interesting breakthrough, you have to wonder what time it really is.

Direct Link to the Research from Osaka University

Citations-

Osaka University. “Growing organs a few ink drops at a time: Researchers refine method of making bio-ink droplets stick to each other, enabling 3D printing of highly complex biological structures with a wide variety of cell types using inkjet printers.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 December 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171227100040.htm>.

Gene Therapy Delivered to the Brain, through the Eye

Introduction_

While looking into treatments for a mouse’s eye infection, I happened to run across a study from 2015. The study entitled “Eye Drops Deliver Gene Therapy for Brain Disorders”, was enacted on mice. The study used eye drops to deliver a genetic growth factor directly to the brains of mice, through the eye. Needless to say the study caught my eye and I wanted to look further into the study, and where it has lead.

Mouse Study using G-CSF-

In 2015 a group of scientists funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Engineering developed a method of delivering, and monitoring the effects of a certain genetic growth factor in brain disorders. Previous studies utilizing the same method had been conducted on humans, but the method for tracking the growth factor had not been developed, and therefore the human trial effectiveness was difficult to determine. The mouse study sought not only to determine the effectiveness of the growth factor but to also track its location.

The study used a special formula in the form of eye drops filled with a genetic growth factor called Ganulocyte2 Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF). The growth factor was designed to increase blood flow in mice afflicted with ischemia1 of the brain. The eye drops containing the growth factor were dropped into the eye of the mice. From the eye the G-CSF was tracked by MRI scans as it entered the brain.

The treatment lead to a significant reduction in neurological defects, brain atrophy, and death of mice normally caused by ischemia. This study showed promising results and may be implemented in further human studies.

Human Studies using G-CSF-

G-CSF treatment has been looked at as a form of treatment for various diseases caused by ischemia, not only in the brain, but in other organs such as the heart as well. Getting G-CSF to the brain is considered a possible treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. There is speculation that a G-CSF treatment, or a similar formula could be carried on emergency vehicles in an eye drop form. The eyedrops would be kept on hand in cases where lack of blood flow to the brain may be of concern in cases of stroke for example.

Studies have been held on humans, but the technique for monitoring the G-CSF expression did not exist, prior to the mouse study of 2015 discussed above. In a human study of over 400 stroke patients, G-CSF eye drop treatments did not improve outcomes of patients, or reduce the effects of stroke. This failure had long diminished enthusiasm about the treatment. Without being able to track the G-CSF after it entered the body, it could not be determined whether the growth factor either had no effect on the human brain, or if it the brain simply never received the growth factor in significant doses. Some doctors still see the promise of such a therapy, and believe that using the MRI techniques developed in the mouse study could help to establish whether the therapy is reaching the human brain, and if it may ever be effective.

In the words of Richard Conroy, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB Division of Applied Science and Technology

:

“This new, rapid, non-invasive administration and evaluation of gene therapy has the potential to be successfully translated to humans,” Conroy says “The use of MRI to specifically image and verify gene expression, now gives us a much clearer picture of how effective the gene therapy is. The dramatic reduction in brain atrophy in mice, if verified in humans, could lead to highly effective emergency treatments for stroke and other diseases that often cause brain damage such as heart attack.”

Thoughts in Review-

As someone generally skeptical of genetic modification, or alteration I was inspired to research deeper into this study and type of therapy. I could not have imagined a genetic therapy with as many possible implications as this one carries. This type of therapy, though it can certainly be used in a beneficial manner, can also have unforeseen side effects, and may not always carry a formula meant to help. If a drop in the eyes can send genetic growth factors to the brain directly, we must realize that this type of therapy has risks, and could be implemented on a massive scale quite easily.

Though the human studies showed no effect, it can not be disregarded that the mice study proved successful at delivering genetic therapy directly to the brain using only the eyeball as a vector. These same techniques could be possible in people as well, and what is delivered may not always be beneficial to us.

Similar News-

A drug called Luxturna, used to treat a rare eye condition called Leber’s congenital amaurosis, has recently been recommended for approval by the FDA. The FDA will decide final approval of Luxturna by January 12th of 2018. Luxturna is a genetic therapy that is injected into the eye (with a microscopic needle), and alters the genetics of the retina using a virus to modify the gene attributed to the retinal disease, using a virus to spread genetic information. Luxturna began testing on human participants in 2012, and has shown to improve the vision of those with Leber’s. I hope to cover this topic deeper in a future article, stay tuned for more.

Footnotes-

1. Ischemia or ischaemia– is a restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen and glucoseneeded for cellular metabolism (to keep tissue alive) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ischemia

2. Ganulocyte- “Granulocytes are a category of white blood cells characterized by the presence of granules in their cytoplasm.”- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granulocyte

References-

1. “Eye drops deliver gene therapy for brain disorders – NIH mouse study.” National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. November 03, 2015. Accessed October 28, 2017. https://www.nibib.nih.gov/news-events/newsroom/eye-drops-deliver-gene-therapy-brain-disorders-%E2%80%93-nih-mouse-study.

2. “ClinicalKey.” ClinicalKey. Accessed November 04, 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com/#!/content/playContent/1-s2.0-S0140673617318688.

3. Taylor, Phil. “Spark Therapeutics’ Luxturna advisory committee vote sets gene therapy landmark.” FierceBiotech. October 13, 2017. Accessed November 04, 2017. http://www.fiercebiotech.com/biotech/spark-therapeutics-luxturna-adcomm-vote-sets-gene-therapy-landmark.