3D printed kidney tissue to target renal repair

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A multidisciplinary team in the US has helped develop a 3D bioprinting technique that fabricates kidney tissue and could transform treatment of renal disease.

Led by Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the research also involved the university’s John A Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences (SEAS) alongside Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The multi-year project has culminated in the group’s suite of stem cell and bioprinting technology being licensed to Trestle Biotherapeutics, a San Diego-based startup that will now seek to commercialise it in revolutionary new treatments for kidney disease and organ replacement.

According to the researchers, more than half a million people in the US alone are dependent on dialysis, with 100,000 waiting on kidney transplants. However, just 20,000 transplants are performed in the country each year, with nearly 5,000 dying annually while awaiting treatment.

“I’m pleased that Trestle has now launched to translate this robust technology to address the growing need for kidney tissues and organs,” said Wyss Core Faculty member Jennifer Lewis, whose lab was central to the technology’s development, in particular an advancement known as SWIFT. “More than a dozen members of my lab contributed to the innovations in tissue engineering that have created this technology platform.

“Most recently, we developed a new biomanufacturing method, known as sacrificial writing in functional tissue (SWIFT), that enables the fabrication of vascularised kidney tissues.”

Working right at the forefront of bioprinting, Lewis and her collaborators created 3D kidney-on-chip models for drug screening and disease modelling and established the core technology for rapidly producing functional, vascularised kidney tissue at scale for repair and regeneration. A key milestone was a method for developing complex kidney organoids - mini organs that replicated the behaviour of kidneys – in collaboration with clinicians Joseph Bonventre (Brigham) and Ryuji Morizane (Massachusetts General Hospital and Wyss Institute).

“We’re very excited to bring the biofabrication and stem cell biology technologies developed in the Lewis and Morizane labs into what we are building at Trestle,” said Ben Shepherd, CEO at Trestle Biotherapeutics.

“The teams at Harvard, Wyss, and the Brigham have a renowned track record in translational innovation, and we’re thrilled with the opportunity to carry their work forward for patients’ benefit.”