Bioprinting breast implants with patients’ own cells

thomas boland

Thomas Boland, Ph.D., professor of metallurical and materials engineering

Bioprinting is one of the more miraculous niches of 3D printing, as it’s bound to deliver useable human organs in a short decade. Other than operating in three dimensions, what really makes bioprinting exciting is its high level of biocompatibility.

With bioprinting, live cells are manipulated into 3D shapes via methods similar to fused deposition modeling and inkjet printing. The live cells can range between skin cells and embryonic stem cells, AND they can be the patient’s cells. If they’re the patient’s cells, the patient’s body has a much lower chance of rejecting whatever bioprinted thing has been implanted. The founders of a company called TeVido BioDevices are working to apply that principle to printing breast implants for cancer patients.

Inventor of the technology and Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of TeVido, Thomas Boland, Ph.D, is the Director of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). His patent-pending method of bioprinting involves using a modified HP Deskjet 340 inkjet printer to distribute proteins that are held in a mixture of gelatin and alginate (long carbohydrate molecules) onto a specialized gel.

TeVido recently won a $150,000 Phase I SBIR grant to further develop the technology, and Co-founder Laura Bosworth-Bucher comments, “We highlighted the idea that ours could be a platform and picked a target market. Once we get this working, it could be used in a large portfolio of applications. We’re focusing on filling a small tumor void as our first product.”

As far as that first product is concerned, the award abstract reads, “The long-term objective of this research is to build an autologous tissue structure that can integrate more naturally with the patient than conventional products. The proposed research will use a new bioprinting technology to create capillary channels that are hypothesized to anastomose with host tissue quickly, thereby allowing lab-grown tissues to survive once transplanted to the patient.” See, liposuctioned fat that’s retransplanted has a tendency to reabsorb back into the flesh, which isn’t conducive to maintaining a desired shape; “Fat gets reabsorbed when we want it to stay in place and be predictable,” Bosworth-Bucher relates.

Regarding the “large portfolio of applications,” the abstract explains: “The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will improve the quality of life for people suffering from deformity due to cancer tumor removal, congenital defects and traumatic injuries… The commercial impacts of this research will be the availability of an autologous option for women in the lucrative $10B (US) market for breast augmentation.” Lucrative, indeed.

The testing is currently being performed on mice, but the Phase II grant that’s been applied for will probably observe the effects on humans. The success of their research would mean less women opt for mastectomies, as tissue reconstruction would become cheaper and yield more consistently desirable results. Considering that around 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, this bioprinting technology could improve the lives of millions. And there’s no reason this couldn’t be expanded to reconstructive surgeries in general, which could help millions more.

h/t: Med City News