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Leather from the printer: no fiction

In Blagoveshchensk master the technology of creating artificial leather

The skin for the treatment of burns can soon be obtained by printing on an 3D printer. Using the same printer, it will be possible to print other organs, as well as create models of cancer tumors for the development of individual cancer treatment. And in this there is no fiction: the company "Next Gene Biosystem" from Blagoveshchensk, formed on the basis of the Amur Medical Academy, has already created the necessary technologies that after "running in" and obtaining the necessary permits can be used for the benefit of regenerative medicine. Anton Yatsenko, the head of the Cell Technology Laboratory of the company "Next Gen Gene Biosystem", told in an interview with EastRussia how the technologies of 3D printing of human skin and organs were created, what is the printed material and why it is strategically important to create a cryobank in the Far East.

Leather from the printer: no fiction
Photos: courtesy of Anton Yatsenko
- Tell us how the idea of ​​printing human skin and organs on 3D-printer appeared, how much time has passed from its appearance to realization?

- The idea originated long ago - even during my student days, I and my future colleagues studied the scientific basics of regenerative medicine, medicine, aimed at restoring human structures and organs. One of its directions, widely spread, was the treatment of burns and non-burn damage by creating an artificial leather coating.

For the development of 3D bioprinting technology and the creation of artificial leather in 2015, the company "Next Gene Biosystem" was organized on the basis of the Amurskaya GMA. Over the next two years, we completely rebuilt the laboratory structure from scratch, purchased equipment and reagents, and trained staff. We started direct scientific work with the cellular material from October of the year 2017.

- When scientists talk about creating artificial leather, they usually use the word "growing", you're talking about 3D-printing. Does this mean that your technology is one of a kind?

- I can say for sure that such projects to create artificial leather with the help of 3D-biopressing technologies in Russia are currently not available. Of course, attempts are being made to recreate the skin in our country quite a lot, but they are realized in the framework of other technologies - most often this is the usual cultivation of cells and their further transfer to a wound defect.

In the world now there are two or three projects where scientists work in the same area as we, but each approach has its own characteristics, its pros and cons. When developing our technology, we tried to take into account all the shortcomings of world projects and implement the optimal, in the opinion of our professors and doctors, the option of artificial skin.

- What is the main difference between your project and the world analogues?

- First of all, the approach to biopress. We plan to use a combination of different types of biopress, as well as different types of cells, rather than cells of the same type, as is done in other projects. In addition, in our biochernilas there are components of plant origin, which were isolated from plants that grow solely in the Amur region. These components can significantly improve the survival of cells after the biopressing process - a lot of stress for cells due to the influence of mechanical factors when passing through the nozzle and tube. Thus, we have created an ink that increases the regeneration of tissues and improves the structure of the created sample.

- 3D-bioprinter - also your development?

- No, the employees of our company are biologists and doctors, and it would be difficult for us to develop a technique. Therefore, we found partners - the Russian-Swiss company IQDemy, which today is one of the world leaders in the creation of turnkey printers.

They have completely taken over the technical part of the project, and now complete the creation of the printer, the delivery of which we expect in late February - early March, and we hope that everything will go well.

- How does the process of printing the skin and how does it look?

- The process of bioprocessing is quite simple - the biochernil is loaded into the printer, which contains not only cells, but also a certain polymer that forms the necessary 3D structure, as well as a number of chemical modifiers that improve the structure of the polymer and increase the survival of cells. First, a polymer substrate is printed, which is then applied to the cells in a passive manner or also by printing.

The printed skin does not look like a human. Our product will not have hair follicles, fat and sweat glands - there is no special need for these "details", since they do not bear the burden in the initial and subsequent stages of treatment of burn injuries.

- What stages should your development take from the moment of creation in the laboratory to application in medical practice, and how long will it take?

- Until the end of 2018, we are planning to create a prototype artificial skin that will be used in preclinical research. Since the creation of biocell products is strictly regulated by the legislation of the Russian Federation, we will go through a number of stages of registration. The first stage is the conduct of preclinical research in 2019, after which we plan to enter clinical studies, that is, work directly with burn patients. Then, based on the results obtained, the time will be determined when our product can be used for practical purposes.

- In addition to artificial skin, you also declare about the possibilities of biopressing of other human organs. At first glance, this seems like a fantasy ...

- It does not seem like a fantasy, because in the world there are certain successes in the 3D-biopressing organs. The most striking example is the bladder, which was printed in the US about four years ago, and until now the people who transplanted them are alive and well, and they have no complications. In general, in the scientific world and in regenerative medicine, 3D-biopressing technology is a very trendy area with a lot of research. The scientific community understands that even a little bit and all this will become a reality in the practical activities of doctors.

- The organs printed on the 3D printer can be used in cancer research. How will this happen and what will it give in terms of treating cancer patients?

- Indeed, with the help of 3D-biopress technologies it is possible to create a tumor model for a specific patient. In the event that you simply take the cells from it and begin to cultivate it, different factors of the tumor itself, for example, its microenvironment, which greatly affects the effectiveness of therapy, are lost. And the 3D-printing technology allows you to keep all this. On such model of a tumor it is possible to check up work of preparations before their application at onkobolnogo.

- Creation of a cryobank is also one of the promising directions of your laboratory's work. What is the need to implement such a project and at what stage of development is it?

- The fact is that commercial cryobanks have already been established in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which work with stem cells of umbilical cord blood, as well as with other tissues and organs. Unfortunately, there are no such banks in the Far East. Therefore, our hospitals, which offer appropriate services for the treatment of various human diseases, are forced to work with banks from the European part of the country. This approach requires the delivery of "gentle" biological material for many hours until stem cells are released, which can lead to their instability and low efficiency in the future. In addition, the need for delivery also imposes additional economic costs on the consumer of the service, which does not have a low cost.

We are ready to become the initiators of the creation of a regional cryobank, and we are already conducting research on this topic, we are exploring the possibilities of commercializing this service. The beginning of practical activities in this direction largely depends on how quickly we will be able to obtain a license for this type of medical activity.

- All the studies you carry out require significant financial support. Who are the investors of the project?

- Our project now has two main investors: the Amur Medical Academy, on the basis of which our company was established, as well as a private investor who was one of the co-founders of our company. In addition, we participate in various grant programs in Russia and are looking for other sources of funding.