Allevi Author: How 3D Bioprinting Solves the Stem Cell Supply Problem

We’ve all read the news stories touting the promise of stem cells to transform the field of regenerative medicine; “The Life Saving Power of Stem Cells”, “The Promise of Stem Cells”, “The $950 Million Dollar Bet on Stem Cells to Cure Diabetes”, etc...

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So why are these cells so exciting to the medical and scientific community? It’s because your stem cells are multipotent - meaning that they have the potential to develop into many different cells in the body. Because they have this ability to reprogram (or ‘differentiate’), stem cells can be used to repair diseased or damaged tissue in humans.

However, these promising therapies require a large number of stem cells for a single treatment (up to one billion cells may be needed just for one patient) and manufacturing these special cells is challenging. Traditional two-dimensional culture protocols are resource-intensive and inefficient - making it difficult to scale the production to meet future demands.

Our newest Allevi Authors are working on an innovative new approach to solving the stem cell supply problem and have detailed their research in a paper titled, “Bioprinting of Stem Cell Expansion Lattices”.

The team of scientists, led by Stanford Professor Sarah Heilshorn, developed an easy-to-produce and cost-effective 3D platform for cell line expansion by bioprinting stem cells in a layered lattice structure. Using their Allevi 2 bioprinter, the team created three-dimensional lattice structures of stem cells and alginate that reduce the spatial footprint, energy, and resources needed to multiply the cells. So why is this method optimal? Imagine that you are a city planner with a limited amount of space to build more housing, you would be able to provide homes for more residents by building high-rises rather than individual houses.

 
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Using alginate and an Allevi bioprinter, the team is able to create 3D structures that provide a healthy environment for the cells to grow without taking up too much space or using too many resources. Most importantly, the team was able to efficiently remove the stem cells from the lattices without harming the cells.

With countless stem-cell therapies in development for numerous diseases, researchers and doctors are going to need a large number of stem cells in order to bring their work to fruition. This forward-looking approach to solving the supply problem provides a path to clinical applications for patients looking to receive one of these novel therapies in the future.

Read the full paper here.