Researchers Create Mini-Liver From 3D Printer

The technique can easily be scaled up to print out organs for transplantation.
Donna Fuscaldo

Researchers from the University of  São Paulo were able to make a functional mini-liver via 3D bioprinting. 

The work was conducted at the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center, which is one of the research, innovation and dissemination centers funded by the  São Paulo Research Foundation.


Mini-liver took just 30 days to produce

The researchers were able to create the mini-liver using human blood cells in 90 days. The technique could become an alternative way for organ transplantation in the future. The work was published in journal Biofabrication

The scientists combined bioengineering techniques including cell reprogramming and the cultivation of stem cells with 3D bioprinting. That enables the mini-liver to perform all the functions of a typical liver including producing proteins, storing vitamins and secreting bile. The printed organ was able to function longer than other studies because of the combination of bioengineering and 3D bioprinting

"More stages have yet to be achieved until we obtain a complete organ, but we're on the right track to highly promising results. 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," said Mayana Zatz, director of HUG-CELL and last author of the article in a press release highlighting the work. 

The work could provide an alternative for organ transplants 

The process was divided into three different stages with differentiation the first stage, printing the second and maturation the final stage.

The blood cells are first reprogrammed so that the stem cells get to the point where they can develop into three primary cells, differentiation is then inducted into the liver cells. It is then mixed with bioink and printed out. The structures mature in a culture for 18 days, noted the report. 

"The printing process entails the deposition of spheroids along three axes, which is necessary for the material to gain volume and give the tissue proper support,"  Ernesto Goulart, a postdoctoral fellow in USP's Institute of Biosciences and first author of the article. "The gel-like bioink is crosslinked to make the structures more rigid so that they can be manipulated and even sutured."

The researchers said the technique can be used to produce normal-sized organs that can be used in transplantation, with Goulart saying that with the right investment and interest it's easy to scale the technique up. 

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