Russia's 3D Bioprinting Solutions makes breakthrough in creating first ever 3D printed thyroid gland

It’s no secret that while additive manufacturing has afforded many different industries with cheaper and faster ways of getting objects made fast and accurately, it is the medical industry that has seen some of the most exciting and revolutionary breakthroughs.
Of course, 3D printed prosthetics have seemingly been taking the limelight as of late, but advancements in 3D bioprinting - while we may not hear about them as often - are definitely happening albeit at a slower pace. Among other developments, in November of 2014, a Russian company claimed that they would be able to 3D print a transplantable organ (a thyroid gland) in March of 2015.
The company - 3D Bioprinting Solutions - has just announced that they have followed through on their promise and have announced that they have produce the world’s first 3D printed transplantable organ, which will be used on a mouse.
The company, which is headed by Professor Vladimir Mironov, chose to focus on a thyroid gland for their first usable organ due to its relative simplicity. In other words, by establishing small goals with less-complex organs they will soon be able to add-on further developments as technology and research allows them to.

“We'll start with mice. We'll shut off the [lab mouse's] thyroid with radioactive iodine, which will cause the level of hormones in the organism to drop,” said Mironov back in November. “We'll then transplant the printed structure, and if the level of hormones gets back to normal, we will be celebrating with champagne.”
Their Bioprinter is a real robot that can move in three directions. It is equipped with automatic syringe which can drip fabric layers consisting of living cells. The thyroid gland was printed using stem cells and the company was previously able to produce a bio-ink for printing with stem cells before focusing on the thyroid gland. In order to ensure that the organ isn’t rejected by the mouse, the cells were sourced fr om the mouse’s own fat tissue.


In order to ensure that the cells were prepared for printing, they were transformed into ‘spheroids’ - or layered cells - that were then placed in a hydrogel to help enable the printing process. Once the organ was printed, it was placed in a bioreactor wh ere the gel dissolved and left behind the thyroid organ to mature on its own.

In comparison, this would hypothetically be like taking a chipped piece of glass from a shattered iPhone screen, creating a printable material from it and then applying the final printed object back to the screen in which the rest of the screen would be able to regenerate itself.

Although the thyroid gland has already been printed, the transplant hasn’t actually occurred yet, however it is expected to happen soon. If the operation is a success, the team will unveil their results to the general public at the Second International Congress on Bioprinting in Singapore in July of this year.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is what this might mean for the future of human-based bioprinting. While it is still too early to determine what would be involved, it’s safe to say that with these recent developments from 3D Bioprinting Solutions, we’ve never been as close to being able to print internal organs that otherwise would need to be supplied from a donor in the history of human existence.

Once they have finished their testing with the thyroid gland, the team says they’re on track to have a bioprinted kidney - an arguably much more-complex organ - by the year 2018... which isn’t too far off.