Defense

July 9, 2014

Army invests in 3-D bioprinting to treat injured soldiers

Tags:
Dan Lafontaine
Fort Detrick, Md.

Research fellow Dr. Young Joon Seol works on a project to print experimental muscle tissue for reconstructive surgery.

A team of scientists scans the surface of severely burned skin, creates a three-dimensional map of the wound with a laser, and then prints skin cells onto the patient using a 3-D bioprinter.

Medical specialists are developing methods to transition this research from the laboratory to clinical trials.

The U.S. Army is a significant proponent and investor in regenerative medicine and 3-D bioprinting, according to officials. Scientists are aiming to advance this new research area to help injured service members recover from the wounds of war.

Dr. Michael Romanko, who provides science and technology management support for the Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project Management Office, or TIRM PMO, with the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity, said that improvements in body armor, vehicle design and advanced medical care during the past decade led to Soldiers suffering injuries that would have caused fatalities in previous conflicts.

Blasts from improvised explosive devices have increased the number of soldiers experiencing the loss of limbs, catastrophic injuries to the face and severe burns.

“There was an increasing need to deliver therapies for wounded warriors. We saw a spike in the severity of the trauma that these soldiers were receiving. As we increased the quality of battle armor, the injuries they were surviving were that much more debilitating,” said Romanko, who holds a doctorate in molecular medicine.

The Department of Defense, in turn, established the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, or AFIRM, in 2008. Regenerative medicine aims to replace or regenerate human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function.

The AFIRM is a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary network of universities, military laboratories and investigators under the framework of a cooperative agreement, Romanko said. The network is designed to promote integration of development, from basic science research through translational and clinical research, as the best means of bringing regenerative medicine therapies to practice.

The success of the first five years of the AFIRM led to the competition of a new cooperative agreement in 2013, he said.

3-D bioprinting is one tool that scientists are developing in the field of regenerative medicine. It is an early discovery technology being used to address extremity injury and skin, genitourinary and facial repair by AFIRM investigators.

Skin repair is the most robust focus area addressed in the regenerative medicine portfolio, Romanko said.

“The scars that soldiers develop as a result of burns constrict movement and disfigure them permanently. The initiative to restore high-quality skin that is elastic and complete with sweat glands, appropriate pigmentation and hair follicles is incredibly important,” he said.

Romanko described how researchers are currently using 3-D bioprinters for skin repair research.

In translating this technology to the clinic, scientists will take healthy cells and, using a device similar to an inkjet printer, load the cartridges with two types of skin cells – fibroblasts and keratinocytes – instead of ink. Fibroblasts make up the deep layer of skin, and keratinocytes compose the top layer.

After the team completes a scan of the burn and constructs a 3-D map of the injury, the computer tells the printer where to start printing and what type of cells to use, depending on the depth of the injury and the layer being reconstructed. The bioprinter deposits each cell precisely where it needs to go, and the cells grow to become new skin.

Early research results are promising, and scientists hope this could be a viable solution in the future, Romanko said.

Addressing the need for skin repair is important, because burns account for 10 percent to 30 percent of battlefield casualties. The precision available through 3-D bioprinting allows for a custom solution for each patient.

Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine print ear, finger bone and kidney structure scaffolds using a 3-D printer.

“Everyone has a different type of injury, and not everyone’s skin injury looks the same. Skin bioprinting would provide a scalable form of personalized medicine,” Romanko said.

An additional goal in regenerative medicine is bioprinting organs, limbs and vascular systems. Other early discovery 3-D bioprinting projects within AFIRM have focused on the generation of complex tissue components with bone and muscle.

3-D bioprinting is still in the early stages, Romanko said. More laboratory research is necessary, and several federal regulatory steps must be completed before patients could enroll in clinical trials.

About 30 universities, hospitals and additional partners, led by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, make up the consortium of AFIRM researchers. Romanko works with the TIRM PMO, which supports AFIRM and other regenerative medicine programs.

AFIRM receives funding from the U.S. Army, the Office of Naval Research, Air Force Surgeon General’s Office, Veterans Health Administration, National Institutes of Health and the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. AFIRM investigators also bring in funding from other federal, state and private sources.

Leveraging experts from across academic and medical research organizations allows the Army to pull together the range of specialties needed for this type of complex technology, Romanko said.

Engineers work with bioimaging experts to develop the actual bioprinters and technology to scan the topology of injury sites, like the skin, or recreate the 3-D structures of other organs. In turn, biologists and physicians who specialize in the specific organ or tissue being produced oversee the process to ensure the appropriate placement of cells and construction of tissue. They all work together as a multidisciplinary team to advance bioprinting research.

Expanding the technology to a greater number of potential patients will also help to ensure its long-term viability, Romanko said.

“This has very widespread use, not only to the military audience, but also to the civilian population. We need a larger commercialization audience in order to be a self-sustaining technology,” he said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines January 23, 2015

News: Yemen chaos threatens U.S. counterterror efforts, including drone programĀ - The White House’s strategy for fighting al-Qaeda in Yemen – repeatedly presented as a model by President Obama – was left in tatters Thursday by the resignation of the man who personally approved U.S. drone strikes in the country and the collapse of its central...
 
 

News Briefs January 23, 2015

NATO detects key Russian military equipment in east Ukraine NATO’s top commander in Europe says the alliance has detected the presence of key Russian military equipment in eastern Ukraine that, in the past, has accompanied large inflows of Russian troops. Gen. Philip Breedlove told a news conference Jan. 22 in Brussels that Russian electronic warfare...
 
 
Boeing photograph

Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft ready for demonstration flights

Boeing photograph The Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft program is ready for customer demonstration flights, having completed the baseline ground and flight testing of the aircraft mission systems. The Boeing Maritime Surve...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Jacqueline Cowan

F135 test demonstrates success of AEDC workshare initiative

Air Force photograph by Jacqueline Cowan Aerospace Testing Alliance Test Engineer Darren Carroll, pictured in front, assists as Pratt & Whitney Test Engineer Ronnie Thomas does a borescope inspection of the fan on the F135 ...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

40 years of Red Flag at Nellis

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald A flight of F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons Aggressors fly in formation over the Nevada Test and Training Ranges June 5, 2008. The proposal for Red Flag came in early...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Navy gears up to order production of 29 aircraft diagnostic systems

Lockheed Martin photograph Petty Officers Third Class Ira Schwartz assigned to Fleet Readiness Center Southeast at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., left, and Devin Riley from Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic at Naval Ai...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>