When attempting to biologically engineer a new trachea—or any airway organ, for that matter—stability is key. Think about it this way: if a transplanted, biologically 3D printed ear collapses, it’s a problem for the transplant recipient, but not a life-threatening one. But if a 3D printed trachea collapses, the patient is in big, big trouble, since they lose the ability to breathe.
Scientists differ in their opinions on how to ensure a stable trachea: some bioengineers think scaffolds are the best way to create artificial airway organs, but this approach can pose problems and limitations. That’s why a team of researchers led by Saga University’s Koichi Nakayama—who has previously carried out studies on the 3D bioprinting of liver tissue in rats as part of Nakayama Labs—has used a 3D bioprinter to create scaffold-free artificial tracheas. The researchers say their 3D printed tracheas are strong enough to prevent collapse, and have tested the structures on rats to prove it.
Working with a number of researchers from Nagasaki University, Nakayama wanted to carry out a study in order to develop a new scaffold-free approach for creating an artificial trachea, using some of the most advanced 3D bioprinting technology available. In the study, the team made scaffold-free trachea-like grafts generated from isolated cells in an inbred animal model.
Although Nakayama has admitted that the budget for the study was low, the researchers nonetheless had an impressive piece of bioprinting machinery at their disposal: a Regenova bioprinter from Cyfuse Biomedical. The Regenova is unique in its use of the “Kenzan method,” which involves, somewhat bizarrely, skewering spheroids of cell clusters onto sharp spikes to keep them in position. It’s probably the most advanced kind of kebab in the world!