self healing

Research Spotlight: Dr. Doris Taylor is Building a Heart from Scratch

Here at Allevi, we’re always keeping an eye out for research being done in tissue engineering and stem cell biology. Together, these disciplines form the backbone of regenerative medicine.

So, it’s only natural that Dr. Doris Taylor’s research at the University of Minnesota and at the Texas Heart Institute caught our eye. Click the image below to check out this brief video describing the premise of her work:

In sum, her approach to creating tissues and organs for transplantation is this: first, wash out the existing cells in a donor’s organ (using a standard detergent called sodium dodecyl sulfate, or SDS) to leave only the extracellular matrix, and then re-cellularize this natural scaffold with the patient’s stem cells. After cell growth and proliferation, the end result is a brand new heart made from the recipient’s own cells. This approach is groundbreaking because it lessens, or nullifies altogether, the problems associated with donor organ rejection.

How could Allevi help out with this goal? Well, we know that an extracellular matrix scaffold is needed to seed the patient’s cells and eventually grow a heart. Why not 3D bioprint such a scaffold, instead of obtaining it by washing out the cells of a animal, or donor’s heart?

Imagine: a patient suffers cardiac trauma and is in need of new heart tissue, or a new heart entirely. A 3D bioprinter could print an extracellular matrix scaffold customized for the patient, and then the patient’s cardiac stem cells would be grown on the matrix. Given the proper incubation, environment, and growth factors, a new, healthy, beating heart could be ready for the patient in a matter of days. This takes the need for a donor out of the transplant equation.

Allevi is looking forward to what Dr. Taylor and her team come up with next. The technique she has developed could be applied to a wide array of organs, and even blood vasculature. The possibilities are endless, and a 3D bioprinter can only help realize the promise of regenerative medicine.

Click here for more information about Dr. Doris Taylor and her work.

Self Healing with Synthetic Biology

Today, we wanted to provide some context to spark a discussion on using living organisms as supplements in structures to make them self-healing. There is a piece on self-healing concrete that was harnessing calcium carbonate precipitating bacteria. This could have tremendous applications for repairing roadways and buildings, among other things.

Self healing concrete Allevi

It led us to start thinking about how we can perhaps have other similar applications that could harness the combined powers of 3D printing and synthetic biology in order to make structures that could heal themselves.

Talking to two other MD-PhD students over lunch generated a few thoughts that we wanted to share with you. One was about the use of coral implants to heal bone. This is already in the works! There was talk of introducing organisms that would start growing when exposed to air and could be visualized to highlight micro-cracks in places where structural integrity is important. How can we use similar techniques for diagnostics in humans?

These thoughts raise some interesting talking points: 1) How would the living organisms sustain themselves within these non-living structure? 2) Could they grow out of control? 3) What organisms are appropriate for such applications - what are the ethical dilemmas of using higher organisms, such as jellyfish which are known to have plasticity, in such work? How will the increased proliferation of such organisms impact the balance of our surrounding ecosystem?

There are many other issues surrounding these theories of self-healing and we’d love to hear from you!