In a process similar to 3D printing, it is possible to artificially create tissues by using cells and biomaterials. Bioprinting has allowed scientists to create organoids, meat, skin and bones. Researchers from Brazil have now bioprinted, ‘mini-livers’ that can perform all the functions of a liver.
The printed organoid can produce vital proteins, store vitamins, secrete bile, and all the other functions that are carried out by a liver. Researchers from the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center (HUG-CELL) at the University of São Paulo (USP) can create the miniature liver in just 90 days.
Researchers in their study published in the journal, Biofabrication used various bioengineering techniques to come up with a new method to print organoids. Normally, bioprinting uses bioink made up of cells and other biomaterials to print tissues layer-by-layer just like 3D printing.
Instead of just cells, researchers used clumps of cell, which they called spheroids in the bioink. The use of spheroids substantially extended the life of organoids, compared to previous studies, as they were able to avoid the gradual loss of contact between cells.
By reprogramming blood cells obtained from three people, researchers created induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The stem cells are then transformed into hepatocytes, vascular cells, and mesenchymal cells that make up the hepatic tissues of the liver. The spheroids, consisting of these cells are then mixed with a hydrogel-like fluid to make the bioink that can be used to create liver organoids.
The director of HUG-CELL, Mayana Zatz explained, “In the very near future, instead of waiting for an organ transplant, it may be possible to take cells from the patient and reprogram them to make a new liver in the laboratory. Another important advantage is zero probability of rejection, given that the cells come from the patient.”
Image Credit: Daniel Antonio/Agência Fapesp