Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have engineered a new bioprinted device that can filter toxins in human blood similar to the way a human liver functions.
Created using a biofabrication method called dynamic optical projection stereolithography (DOPsL), the new device uses a 3D printed matrix of hydrogel to suspend nanoparticles that filter pore-forming toxins.
While nanoparticles have long been known to effectively eliminate pore-forming toxins, comingling them with blood has been tricky. The problem with nanoparticles is that if they’re not bound with a biocompatible insulator they can get caught in places like the human liver, leading to “secondary poisoning.” To eliminate this risk the UCSD team selected hydrogel as its delivery vessel for its toxin sponging nanoparticles.
According to UCSD nanoengineering professor Shaochen Chen, “The concept of using 3D printing to encapsulate functional nanoparticles in a biocompatible hydrogel is novel … This will inspire many new designs for detoxification techniques since 3D printing allows user-specific or site-specific manufacturing of highly functional products.”
To build their unique amalgam Chen and his team leveraged the DOPsL concept that they developed to rapidly create biofabricated blood vessels. In the technique a computer projection system is used in concert with finely tuned mirrors to beam light onto a selected area of photo sensitive biopolymers and cells. Once flashed, the polymers become fixed and a new layer of solid biomaterial can be built.
While Chen’s device is still in the proof-of-concept phase, it has undergone limited in-vitro study where it was able to neutralize all pore-forming toxins. Given the fact that Chen’s lab and their new technology are funded by the National Institute of Health to the tune of $1.5M, chances are there’s a good deal of promise in the new 3D printing technique. If a more user specific method for detoxifying blood can be developed then diabetics and those suffering from other renal diseases could expect better healthcare outcomes. What’s more, bioprinting will have taken another step towards becoming a commonplace in modern medicine.
Image Courtesy of UCSD