Building Artificial Organs from Nanomaterials
A team of scientists has built an artificial trachea from nano-materials and stem cells. In the future, bypass grafts, tracheae, oesagphaguses and heart valves might be made of nanocomposites, too.
Back in December 2011, Jungebluth et al. reported in the Lancet about a patient with recurring cancer of the trachea. Conventional surgical methods weren’t working, so the airways were replaced “with a tailored bioartificial nanocomposite previously seeded with autologous bone-marrow mononuclear cells via a bioreactor for 36 hours.”
To create the new trachea, the patient was scanned to get an exact 3-D image of his trachea. From the 3-D scan, the scientists first constructed a glass model of the affected trachea. The model was then used to shape the synthetic scaffold that was seeded with the stem cells.
Findings after 5 months were promising: “We noted an extracellular matrix-like coating and proliferating cells including a CD105+ subpopulation in the scaffold after the reseeding and bioreactor process. There were no major complications, and the patient was asymptomatic and tumour free 5 months after transplantation. The bioartificial nanocomposite has patent anastomoses, lined with a vascularised neomucosa, and was partly covered by nearly healthy epithelium,” the report states. The seeded stem cells did their job and had specialized into cells functioning just as they were supposed to.
But the research didn’t end there. “We are currently working on bypass grafts, tracheae, oesagphagous and heart valves,” explains Alexander M. Seifalian, coauthor of the 2011 Lancet study and professor of nanotechnology & regenerative medicine at University College London, about the state of the developments in creating artificial organs.
And getting them to work in patients is no longer the stuff of science fiction. “Tracheae, bypass grafts, tear ducts, noses and ears are already working in patients,” according to Seifalian, who will give a presentation on Nanomedicine at MEDTEC Europe. “So, this is already a lab-to-patient process.” And since the patient’s own stem cells are used, there is no rejection by the body and no immune-suppressive drugs are needed.
Seifalian expects that the artificial trachea could be clinically available in as soon as two years, whereas other organs might take up to five years, depending on funding.
But he wouldn’t want to stop there. Asked about the limits of this technology, he won’t accept any but the brain as a whole. “Let’s take on other solid organs such as the liver and kidney. We might be looking at a 10-year timeframe before they will get to the patients, but they are surely possible.”
The nanocomposite materials developed by Seifalian and his colleagues are for special purposes: “We developed and patented two different kinds of these materials, one nonbiodegradable, and the other one biodegradable. The latter is meant for usage in children, where the organs still have to grow.” Making the nanocomposite materials biodegradable will allow the body to absorb them over time and replace them with its own cells
Source: Implantable devices by Thomas Klein on May 23, 2014
European Medical Device Technology; by Ute Eppinger
Picture: University College London