Stanford’s audacious AM plan: Bioprinting and implantation of a human heart into a pig, with a venture worth $26.3 million.


Stanford University is embarking on an ambitious project funded by a $26.3 million federal contract, aiming to bioprint and implant a human heart into a pig. The researchers have already made progress in bioprinting soft biocompatible materials with living cells arranged in a specific architecture to create cardiac tissue. However, the team acknowledges that they need to refine the process further and develop a pipeline capable of handling trillions of cells in order to keep these tissues alive. To support this massive undertaking, they are also working on new 3D printing hardware that can manufacture larger human tissues at a faster pace and with higher resolution.

Mark Skylar-Scott, the team leader and Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, describes this endeavor as an enormous generational challenge. The ultimate goal is to manufacture human tissues at a therapeutic scale, bridging the gap between cells grown in a lab and functional organs for patients. Skylar-Scott emphasizes the importance of developing new 3D printing technologies and believes that researchers will require decades of work to produce fully functional 3D printed organs and advance stem cell and developmental biology.

The complexity of the task at hand is immense, as a human heart contains over 10 billion cells from more than two dozen cell types arranged in a precise 3D pattern to form a functional organ. Skylar-Scott states that perfection in this process will come through repetition. The intricate chambers, valves, and vessels of the heart present a unique challenge that the researchers aim to conquer. They are using automated bioreactors to generate large quantities of heart cells, including those responsible for the heartbeat and blood vessel formation.

Once the techniques are refined and the team gains a deeper understanding of heart design, they plan to produce a functioning heart that can be transplanted into a pig. Pigs have long been considered suitable models for medical research due to their anatomical and physiological similarities to humans. Their hearts closely resemble those of humans in terms of size and function, making them valuable in cardiovascular studies. Additionally, pigs share a high degree of genetic similarity with humans, further justifying their use in such research.

While the use of pigs as test subjects is common in preclinical medical research, the aim is to eventually reduce dependence on animal models through advancements like bioprinting. The scientific community is optimistic that technologies like bioprinting can offer alternatives to traditional animal testing. However, Stanford’s decision to proceed with a pig for this project may be influenced by the current limitations of bioprinting. The goal is to practice and optimize the design rules of the heart using a large number of cells to ensure viability and function before eventual transplantation into a pig.

To prevent rejection, the bioprinted human heart will be transplanted into a pig with severe congenital immunodeficiency. The team is using patient-specific stem cells, which may eliminate the need for immunosuppression during transplantation. The ultimate dream is to create a human heart using a patient’s own cells. However, Skylar-Scott remains cautious and believes that the full realization of this dream, especially for humans, may still be decades away. Nonetheless, projects like this are crucial steps towards making that dream a reality.

In conclusion, Stanford University’s project to bioprint and implant a human heart into a pig is an ambitious endeavor driven by the goal of manufacturing functional human tissues at a therapeutic scale. The researchers are working on refining the bioprinting process, developing new 3D printing techniques, and tackling the complexity of the human heart. While the use of pigs as test subjects is common in medical research, advancements like bioprinting offer potential alternatives to animal testing. Although there is still a long way to go before fully functional 3D printed organs become a reality, projects like this are paving the way toward that future.

3D Printing a Human Heart: Stanford University’s Ambitious Project

In a groundbreaking effort to tackle the acute shortage of organ transplants, Stanford University has embarked on an ambitious project to 3D print a working human heart. This massive endeavor requires collaboration with experts from various fields, including cardiology, materials science, biochemistry, and more. To ensure the success of the bioprinting process, the team has partnered with surgeons from the Stanford School of Medicine, who provide crucial expertise in ensuring the robustness of the printed tissues for implantation.

But what sets this project apart is the game-changing $26.3 million federal contract awarded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a US Department of Health and Human Services agency. This landmark initiative is part of ARPA-H’s Open Broad Agency Announcement, responding to the Biden-Harris Administration’s vision to revolutionize the field of organ transplants through on-demand 3D tissue printing. With over 100,000 US citizens waiting for vital organs, such as hearts and kidneys, and over 6,000 losing their lives every year due to inaccessibility of compatible organs, the need for a solution is urgent.

To address this pressing issue, ARPA-H launched the Health Enabling Advancements through Regenerative Tissue Printing (HEART) project, with Stanford University at the forefront. The research team aims to enhance cell purity, upscale 3D bioprinting speed, and pioneer computation modeling and tissue maturation techniques. The ultimate goal? 3D-printing a working human heart in just one hour.

The HEART project’s importance is underscored by ARPA-H Program Manager Paul Sheehan, who emphasizes the need for technological advances to dramatically improve the lives of patients on transplant waitlists. With $305.4 million in funding, ARPA-H’s Open BAA aims to support groundbreaking health research and technological innovations. Alongside Stanford’s HEART project, other notable recipients include Harvard Medical School, Thymmune Therapeutics, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Missouri, Rice University, and Emory University.

While a 3D printed, working human heart in just an hour may seem like a lofty goal, it serves as an inspiration for researchers in this niche subsegment. Stanford University’s ambitious project pushes the boundaries and offers a glimpse into a future where tailored solutions address the root causes of health issues. Although the road ahead is long and filled with hurdles, the potential of bioprinting is immense.

As this project progresses, it is worth staying up-to-date on the latest news from the 3D printing industry. By doing so, we can witness the advancements and innovations that could redefine life as we know it. Don’t miss out on this exciting journey! Stay connected and informed.

Original source


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