Home ESTILOS DE VIDASALUD Bioprinting Offers Boost To Neglected Disease Research

Bioprinting Offers Boost To Neglected Disease Research

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Bioprinting technology holds the potential to advance research and drug development for neglected diseases.

Bioprinting technology holds the potential to advance research and drug development for neglected diseases like malaria, Chagas, and river blindness. This innovation enables detailed study of diseases by creating accurate 3D tissue models, aiding in the discovery of new treatments.

April 24, 2024. Neglected and rarer diseases, often those affecting populations in low- and middle-income regions, receive insufficient research funding and attention compared to diseases that affect wealthier regions.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) like Chagas, sleeping sickness, and river blindness affect more than 20% of the world population––over 1.7 billion people––but attract comparatively little funding or media attention. In 2019, NTDs received just 8.5% of the total funding allocated for neglected disease research.

Advanced technologies like bioprinting are emerging as a potential avenue to reducing this disparity by accelerating and enhancing research and drug development for neglected diseases.

Advancing disease research through bioprinting

Bioprinting offers a novel approach to disease research by providing tissue models that could revolutionize the study and treatment of complex conditions. Bioprinting is a process of creating complex 3D tissue models layer-by-layer out of biomaterials, also known as “bioinks.”

The resulting structures closely mimic the architecture and function of human organs and tissues and react to stimuli similarly to real tissues. These features make bio-printed tissues a versatile platform for investigating the progression of specific diseases in a laboratory setting, according to Vidmantas Šakalys, CEO of Vital3D Technologies.

“By using bio-printed tissues, researchers can evaluate the efficacy and safety of potential therapeutics in a precise and predictive manner. This approach can accelerate the discovery and development of novel treatments, as well as repurposing existing drugs for new indications.”

Tailoring bioprinting to combat neglected diseases

The precision and versatility of bioprinting technology make it well-suited to addressing key challenges associated with researching and treating neglected diseases.

“Neglected diseases often present unique challenges in terms of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention,” Šakalys explains. “Such diseases are often caused by pathogens with complex life cycles, which can require multi-pronged approaches for control and elimination.”  Bioprinted tissue models can offer researchers the ability to meet these specific challenges head-on.

With Chagas disease, for example, the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi causes damage to cardiac and gastrointestinal tissues. “By bioprinting models of these tissues, researchers could closely observe the mechanisms of tissue damage associated with Chagas disease,” Šakalys says. “Insights gained from such controlled observation would then allow for more precise identification of potential drug targets.”

A similar approach would facilitate malaria research, he adds. “3D models of liver and blood vessels infected with Plasmodium parasites could be used to study the liver stage of malaria infection, screen for new antimalarial drugs, and develop vaccines.”

Bioprinting could also create skin models infected with Leishmania parasites, and liver and intestinal tissues infected with Schistosoma parasites allowing researchers to study host-parasite interactions and screen for potential treatments.

Remaining challenges and possibilities

Overall, bioprinting is just one piece of a large puzzle when it comes to effectively addressing neglected diseases, Šakalys says. “Researching and treating neglected diseases will require a multi-faceted approach, involving increased investment in research and development, enhanced global collaboration and coordination, strengthened health systems and infrastructure in affected regions, and greater advocacy and awareness-raising efforts.”

“But bioprinting has the potential to address a wide range of unmet medical needs and improve health outcomes in underserved populations and resource-limited settings,” Šakalys says. “And potential applications of bioprinting in this context could go even further, to include point-of-care tissue fabrication, on-demand organ replacement, and the development of affordable and accessible healthcare solutions.”

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