3D Bioprinter Used to Print Human Kidney for Drug Tests

3D Bioprinter Used to Print Human Kidney for Drug Tests

Researchers at 3D bioprinting firm Organovo have announced that they have successfully bioprinted proximal tubules – tiny vessels found in the nephrons kidney. Proximal tubules play an important role in filtration of fluid as it passes through the kidney, allowing the reabsorption of around 65% of sodium and most of the water from the filtrate.

While the 3D printing of entire kidneys for transplantation is many years away, three-dimensional models of the kidney are needed for the study of disease and drug screening. Being able to bioprint even a base structure of the kidney would be of great benefit to medical researchers and pharmaceutical firms.

Rather than use 3D bioprinting to deposit cells on a pre-printed scaffold, Organovo followed in the footsteps of Harvard researchers and used their technique of 3D printing on a chip, which was published in Scientific Reports last October.

Organovo’s researchers were able to identify the successful binding of kidney cells into a vascularized structure which mimicked the natural process of proximal tubule formation in the kidney. The researchers reported that “Histological characterization demonstrated formation of extensive microvascular networks supported by endogenous extracellular matrix deposition.”

For disease research, it would be necessary for the structure of a diseased proximal tubule to be 3D printed. To demonstrate that this would be possible, the team introduced tubulointerstitial fibrosis to the cells – excessive thickening of the tissue in the kidney causing kidney dysfunction.

The researchers also showed that the 3D printed structure could potentially be used for drug screening with a proof-of-concept showing how toxic substances could be added. The team introduced the nephrotoxin cisplatin and “induced loss of tissue viability and epithelial function in a dose-dependent fashion.”

While 2D cell cultures can be used to assess clinical drug responses, 2D cell cultures have a limited lifespan in vitro. The 3D printed proximal tubules however were sustained for longer than 30 days.  Mouse models can also be used, but their uses are limited due to species-specific differences. Mouse models are largely ineffective as a model for humans.

While the generation of tissues for medical research is a goal, ultimately the company is looking to produce tissues that can be used to regenerate diseased and damaged tissues in the body.

Organovo’s 3D printed kidney study – 3D Proximal Tubule Tissues Recapitulate Key Aspects of Renal Physiology to Enable Nephrotoxicity Testing – was published this month in the journal, Frontiers in Physiology.

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