Scientists Repair Bones Successfully by Combining Gene Therapy and Bioprinting

Bioprinting is a modification of 3D printing for the production of living entities like tissues and organs. It creates three-dimensional tissues by combining growth factors, cells, and biomaterials with techniques similar to 3D printing. It is an additive manufacturing process that deposits materials (bioinks) layer by layer to produce these tissue-like structures.

Organs 3D Printing

Organs 3D Printing

Read Also: A New Method of Bioprinting Neurons Could Decrease the Need for Testing on Animals

A brief history

Charles Hull invented 3D printing technology for nonbiologic purposes in 1984 while Klebe was the first to demonstrate bioprinting four years later. It was in 2003 that the first world 3D bioprinter that can print living tissues from a bioink of nutrients, cells, and substances was developed by Thomas Boland. Organovo company produced the world’s first fully cellular liver tissue through 3D bioprinting in 2013 while the human bladder produced by Wake Forest Institute was the first 3D printed organ to be implanted into a human being.

The world of bioprinting keeps developing as it is a new area that is very important in medicine for studies and tissue replacement. Current advances in living tissue bioprinting include printing parts of the human heart, growing cells, and living skin that has blood vessels, among others.

Bioprinting and gene therapy

The body with time can repair its damaged tissues provided that the needed chemicals and conditions are present. But, this is not always the case as sometimes, the ideal conditions are incomplete. Hence, the body needs external help to achieve healing. This was the basis for the research carried out by T. Ozbolat and his team.

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Bioprinted genes were given to some rats with holes in their skulls to aid repair. The genes were genes encoding for the growth factors platelet derived-growth factor (PDGF-B) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP-2). PDGF-B helps in cell multiplication and migration while BMP-2 helps in the regeneration of bone. These growth factors help in stem cell migration into the area with defects and also help the progenitor cell conversion to bone.

A device comparable to an ink-jet printer was used to print the two genes during surgery, onto the hole in the rat’s skull. This mixture released the BMP-2 encoding gene for five weeks and the PDGF-B encoding gene for 10 days. The DNA for the protein was embedded in plasmids. Plasmids help in the transportation of genetic information. The DNA, on entering the progenitor cells, commences the production of appropriate proteins that help in bone growth.

40% creation of bone tissue and bone coverage of about 90% within six weeks was noted among rats that were given bioprinted genes that had controlled release of the bone morphogenetic protein-encoding gene.

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In contrast, rats that had the same defects but did not receive these genes had 10% of new bone tissue and bone coverage of 25%.

Clinical significance

The world of bioprinting is evolving and can find many uses when fully developed. An organ transplant can be made easier as one won’t have to search for long for donors. Since cultured cells taken for bioprinting may be collected from the patient, the incidence of transplant rejection may be reduced.

Production of organs and tissues through bioprinting can help in clinical studies and trials; thereby replacing animals and humans in laboratory testing.

This study is an important contributor to the use of bioprinting in the repair of tissues since directed production of the essential factors needed for repair can be achieved through bioprinting improved with gene therapy.

Read Also: Harvard Scientists Develop Improved Method for 3D-Printed Organs


Bioprinting is a promising aspect of bioengineering that will bring a solution to many problems in medicine when fully explored. There is a need for further research studies.


Controlled Co-delivery of pPDGF-B and pBMP-2 from intraoperatively bioprinted bone constructs improves the repair of calvarial defects in rats



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