Californian bioprinting company Organovo has announced a collaboration with the University of Virginia to utilize bioprinting technology to treat volumetric muscle loss (VML).

What is volumetric muscle loss?

Volumetric muscle loss refers to surgical or traumatic loss of skeletal muscle tissue. Due to its severity, natural regeneration is not sufficient to overcome the permanent functional and cosmetic damage. VML is difficult to treat as large amounts of muscle is lost, including connective tissue which prevents muscle regrowth.  Current treatment options typically involve surgery, however are mostly ineffective with poor cosmetic results.

It is hoped that bioprinting will provide a more suitable solution by encouraging muscle regrowth and allowing full muscle reconstruction.

Separate research exploring treatments for VML, titled 'Biomimetic scaffolds for regeneration of volumetric muscle loss in skeletal muscle injuries'. Image via Acta Biomaterialia.

Separate research exploring treatments for VML, titled ‘Biomimetic scaffolds for regeneration of volumetric muscle loss in skeletal muscle injuries’. Image via Acta Biomaterialia.

Advanced regenerative medicine

The research will be taking place at University of Virginia’s Dr. George J. Christ’s laboratory. The Christ laboratory is familiar with research into regeneration and biomaterials and will now add bioprinting to their capabilites. The University of Virginia is part of a consortium of research and industrial groups, known as the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute.

According to Dr. George J. Christ,

Current treatment for volumetric muscle loss injury is limited to surgical transfers of the patient’s muscle from a healthy site to the injured site.  However, these treatments are associated with poor engraftment of the transferred muscle and can cause death of tissue at the healthy site,

Dr. Christ states that through use of Organovo’s bioprinter, “we could quickly develop a more complex and physiologically relevant bioengineered muscle prototype for preclinical testing.” 

Organovo Bioprinter

The Organovo Bioprinter. Image via Organovo.

Research driving technology

Organovo, based in California, revealed it aims to access a $3 billion market following encouraging financial results for last year. Research collaborations, such as this one, will be crucial to such expansion and Eric David, executive vice president of preclinical development at Organovo, explains,

Collaborations that bring together Organovo’s 3D bioprinting platform and top-notch research serve as a catalyst for the development of innovative treatments that meet critical unmet needs. Combining the expertise in muscle regeneration of Dr. Christ’s lab and University of Virginia with Organovo’s expertise in constructing human tissues is an important step towards helping patients and families who have been calling for solutions in volumetric muscle loss.

Organovo is currently exploring a number of other medical advances with their bioprinting technology. The company has recently been bioprinting liver tissue which could be sent for FDA certification as early as 2019. Organovo has also 3D bioprinted the base structure of a human kidney.

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Featured image shows Organovo partnering with University of Virginia. Image via Organovo.

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