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University Lab Licenses Printed Kidney Tissue Process

Kidney organoid with capillary

A capillary developing in a glomerulus in a kidney organoid. (Wyss Institute, Harvard University)

8 Feb. 2022. A start-up company is acquiring the rights to a stem cell and three-dimensional printing process to produce tissue needed by people with kidney failure. Trestle Biotherapeutics Inc. in La Jolla, California is licensing for commercialization, technologies created in the biomedical engineering and materials science labs of Jennifer Lewis and Ryuji Morizane at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Trestle Biotherapeutics is a two year-old enterprise developing engineered tissue for patients with end-stage renal disease, a life-threatening condition where the kidneys almost completely fail. For people with this disorder, the only treatment options are frequent dialysis sessions to clean impurities from the blood, or a transplanted kidney with donors in short supply. According to the Kidney Project, some 750,000 people in the U.S. and 2 million people worldwide have end-stage renal disease.

The company cites data showing in 2021 more than 100,000 patients are waiting for a kidney transplant, and more than 550,000 patients rely on dialysis for survival. “Patients living with kidney failure have had the same two standard-of-care treatment options for more than 60 years,” says Trestle Bio co-founder and CEO Ben Shepherd in a statement released through BusinessWire.

3-D printed kidney organoids

Among the Wyss Institute’s research initiatives is production of engineered tissue and organs with 3-D printing. One of this project’s goals is to replicate as much of the complexity as possible in human organs, including blood vessels, with 3-D printers. Lewis’s lab at Wyss Institute and the university’s engineering school studies 3-D bioprinting to produce multiple cell and tissue types, that include blood vessels. Morizane’s lab at Mass. General Hospital in Boston, affiliated with Wyss Institute and Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute, studies stem cells for regenerating functioning kidney tissue. In Feb. 2019, Science & Enterprise reported on development of 3-D printed kidney tissue chips called organoids with blood vessel networks produced by Lewis, Morizane, and colleagues.

Trestle Bio says the technology licensed from Harvard makes it possible to produce 3-D printed kidney tissue with blood vessels intact in quantities needed for regenerative medicine. The process also enables tissue to mature and further develop blood vessels within organoids, which the company says can be the basis for larger functioning tissue transplants in kidney failure patients. Lewis and Morizane are joining Trestle Bio as scientific advisors. Financial terms of the licensing agreement are not disclosed.

“Trestle was founded with the belief that recreating patterns and processes found in nature is key to building functional tissues,” says Alice Chen company co-founder and chief scientist. “The next era of cell therapies and regenerative medicine, particularly for addressing diseases arising from complex organs such as the kidney, will rely on the integration of multiple advancing disciplines. Developmental biology, stem cell biology, and 3D biofabrication are core components of this approach.”

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