After announcing late last year that they would be able to 3D print a functional thyroid to be implanted in humans by the end of 2015, Skolkovo-based bioprinting start-up 3D Bioprinting Solutions (3D Bio) announced they have, in fact, created the functional bioficial gland; although, so far, the organ has only been deemed suitable for implantation in mice and not humans, quite yet.
3D Bioprinting Solutions built its own internally developed 3D bioprinter in early 2014, which gives the team the ability to create 3D tissue constructs made up of “cellular spheroids and bioinks for the cellular matrix” by implementing several different bioprinting processes.
The thyroid gland was chosen specifically because it has the simplest structure in comparison with other, more complex organs, such as kidneys, which remain the ultimate goal for the 3D Bio team, currently set for 2018.
The newly formed 3D biomass structure, however, cannot be defined as an organ because, as the laboratory’s director, Professor Vladimir Mironov explained, “there is a hierarchy of classification of living matter: the molecule, cell, tissue, organ, and so on. On this basis,” he added, “the result of the experiment did not fully conform to any of the above categories, so it was decided to define it as an organ construct.”
The next step for the highly proficient Russian team of scientists will be to transplant the resulting bioficial “thyroid” construct into laboratory mice suffering from hypothyroidism, a disease caused by an excess of iodine in the body. The results of this study plan will be presented to the general public on July 9th and 10th at the Second International Congress on biotechnologies to be held in Singapore.
Disfunctions of the thyroid and, even more, to the pancreas (like diabetes) cause severe health complications to millions of people throughout the world and, especially in the case of pancreas, transplants are not feasible or are outright impossible because of the body’s rejection of the organs. The artificial creation of functional organs is considered by many to be impossible in the short term; however, 3D Bioprinting Solutions has, so far, been delivering on its set time schedule. The next appointment is in July.