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3-D Tissue Assembly System Designed

Jeffrey Morgan

Jeffrey Morgan (Brown University)

22 December 2014. Medical and engineering researchers at Brown University in Providence developed a system that puts together synthetic tissue components into larger tissue assemblies, a step in the creation of synthetic organs. A description of the system from the lab of Brown bioengineering professor Jeffrey Morgan was published on Saturday in the journal Tissue Engineering Part C (paid subscription required).

The university says it filed for a patent on the process, and Morgan recently founded the company Microtissues Inc. in Providence to take inventions from his lab to market.

Morgan and first author Andrew Blakely, now a surgeon at Rhode Island Hospital, developed the system to apply advances in electronic semiconductor assembly to tissue engineering, namely selection, placement, and connection of pre-made components into microchip devices. The technique they call bio-pick, place, and perfuse or Bio-P3 is an extension of the lab’s research creating small tissue parts in standard rod, sphere, and ring shapes, then inducing their self-assembly into more complex shapes, such as honeycombs. These parts are grown in molds without a scaffold or matrix, simplifying their design.

In their paper, Morgan, Blakely, and colleagues demonstrate a prototype system that picks and places the tissue parts into larger pieces of live tissue, while keeping the assembled piece infused with fluid. The system has a clear plastic box with two chambers, one for storing the tissue components and the other for building the new piece of tissue. A nozzle uses gentle suction to pick up and release the tissue components, as well as provide fluid and nutrients for the new tissue assembly.

With the prototype, an operator uses the nozzle pump to manually move a component from the parts chamber to the assembly chamber. The team says later versions will have an automated system for picking, moving, and placing the parts.

In the paper, the researchers report creating a tissue tube by stacking 16 doughnut-like rings around a post. In about 2 days, the rings fused together to create the tube. The team reports as well that they stacked and fused four honeycomb pieces, each with about 250,000 cells, into a single slab about 2 millimeters thick. The structures use cells from liver and ovarian tissue, as well as breast cancer cells.

Morgan says in a university statement, Bio-P3 is an advance over 3-D printing to create engineered tissue. “In contrast to 3-D bioprinting that prints one small drop at a time,” notes Morgan, “our approach is much faster because it uses pre-assembled living building parts with functional shapes and a thousand times more cells per part.”

In August 2014, Morgan’s lab received a 3-year $1.4 million grant from National Science Foundation to build an automated Bio-P3 system for tissue and organ engineering.

Blakely demonstrates and tells more about Bio-P3 in the following video.

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