In my time at Stanford, studying a mix of BioEngineering & Electrical Engineering, I put those two interests together by designing and building from a blank slate a low cost, yet high fidelity 3D Bioprinter. A 3D Bioprinter is a 3 axis computer controlled machine that allows one to ‘print’ physiologically, chemically, and micro-geometrically complex three dimensional biological objects. Leveraging the immense body of research in the field of regenerative medicine discovered in the last two decades, the goal of 3D Bioprinting is to use human stem cells with specially engineered ‘bio-inks’ to create various human tissues. Stanford, amongst a couple leading research institutions, has been one of the first in applying state of the art engineering principles to regenerative medicine, thus becoming one of the pioneers in 3D Bioprinting research.
The problem is that 3D Bioprinters are extremely expensive and overly complex - $150K for a laboratory BioPrinter - , and thus much of this research has been confined to the halls of ivory tower American research institutions. However much of the potential benefit to be accrued by using 3D Bioprinting technologies is in the developing world where bioprinted constructs could potentially be much cheaper than full scale surgeries. Therefore my goal was to create an affordable, easy to build, and easy to use 3D Bioprinter such that it could be used by regenerative medicine researchers across the world. It would be possible to build it for less than $3000, and it would provide 90% functionality of existing Bioprinters.
Specifically, I wanted to create a bioprinter that could be used by regenerative medicine researchers in India – India has the biggest and fastest growing populations of type 2 diabetics, and one of the most debilitating conditions of untreated diabetes is foot ulcers. The current graft and surgical procedures are economically prohibitive, resulting in many unnecessary amputations, and thus there is a huge clinical and socioeconomic need to create scalable, affordable wound healing constructs created by 3D Bioprinters.
Thus this summer through the CSA grant, my goal was to bring my 3D Bioprinter design to India and teach leading researchers how to understand and use a 3D bioprinter, and ultimately teach them how to build a 3D Bioprinter based on my design that they can use in their research.
I spent this summer working in the newly opened Regenerative Medicine Institute at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, India. Working with graduate students and technicians, I taught them about Bioprinting and how to build a 3D Bioprinter. Using my design, and materials and parts available locally in New Delhi, we were able to build a fully functioning, 200 micron resolution 3D Bioprinter for ~$2000. We then successfully prototyped and added a collagen electrospinning + spray head such that the printer was specified for wound care and wound healing applications.
Next, we worked to translate the bioprinting capability to the specific research in foot ulcer healing. Programming the control systems and calibrating the new electrospinning head, we carried out multiple experiments on the cell viability and construct viability. Ultimately, we were able to obtain promising results on wound healing using the bioprinting on foot ulcer natural models. We were able to reduce the lesion size on average by 70% over 4 application periods in the model, and 99% for millimeter scale lesions.
Thus at the end of the summer we had created a fully functional 3D Bioprinter that was specified to wound healing research, and successful healing of the lesions in the in-vitro foot ulcer models. Leveraging this success, while I will be returning to Stanford, further experiments will be conducted using animal models and further application studies using the newly built 3D Bioprinter. My hope is that this can one day lead to clinical translation and be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers in patients. Overall, future goals include teaching more research institutions in India how to build and use 3D Bioprinters in their medical research, to further the potential benefits of wound healing and regenerative medicine.