Organ transplantation continues to increase, with 34,770 transplants performed in the US in 2017. Currently, organ transplantation is limited by donor dependence, high costs, and, long-term use of immunosuppressive medications which, in turn, correlates with significant morbidity and mortality. To overcome these limitations, tissue engineering and transplantation have become a major focus. Tissue engineering eliminates donor dependence in that it can use an autologous (self) source to generate biomaterial. Significant advancements have allowed for 3D tissue fabrication, or bioprinting, which allows for necessary cell-to-cell and cell-to-matrix interactions to ensure proper structure and function. However, tissue development also requires an adequate supply of oxygen as hypoxia causes significant cellular damage. Existing strategies used to deliver oxygen to engineered tissue are limited and allow for compromised structural integrity as well as the formation of free radicals, which damage cell viability and genetic material. Hence, clinical implementation of bioprinting necessitates improved methods for oxygenation. Researchers at Rowan University have developed a biocompatible and biodegradable electrolysis system to supply oxygen to engineered tissue. This system utilizes a customizable hydrogel (BioGel) as the electrolyte source, which can be synthesized using a wide variety of biopolymers, along with an electrode and power source. A working prototype has already been developed and tested in vitro. Further development is underway and includes engineering an implantable power source which will not only serve to power the electrolysis system in transplanted tissue but could also be developed to power a multitude of other medical devices.
In spite of significant advancements and endless potential, bioprinting is still being optimized to prevent hypoxia in engineered tissue. Cell-laden hydrogels have already been used as the base material for tissue transplantation in which vascularization is created by agarose or gelatin. Another technique being explored to improve vascularization utilizes endothelial cells to stimulate angiogenesis. However, existing methods lack the ability to provide a controlled and sustained supply of oxygen, and, can produce tissues that lack mechanical strength thereby allowing for structural deformation.
The global market for tissue engineering is expected to increase at a CAGR of 13.2% to reach $16.82 billion in 2023. This market is being fueled by the increased emphasis on tissue engineering in place of conventional organ transplantation. In addition to overcoming limitations including donor dependence, transplant recipients require long-term immunosuppression to prevent rejection. In contrast, tissue engineering can be achieved using autologous (self-derived) cell sources, thereby mitigating the aforementioned limitations. Separately, the increasing geriatric population coincides with an increase in reconstructive and replacement surgeries.
This technology is in preclinical stages of development. Notably, the inventor has developed a working prototype and tested the self-oxygen generating biomaterials in vitro.
|Original language||English (US)|
|State||Published - Oct 2018|