3D Bioprinting Could Make Cancer Treatment More Effective

Published on July 24, 2023 by Madeleine P.
Korean researchers are seeking to treat cancer via bioprinting

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it accounted for about 10 million deaths worldwide in 2020 alone, or nearly one in six deaths. However, though research into treatment is constantly ongoing, there is still much to be done in working towards a cure. But, there may be some new hope. Scientists from the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) and the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB), under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science and ICT have announced a new 3D bioprinting technology which they claim could be a new method for treating cancer, notably solid tumors.

Defined as malignant tumors composed of vascular and connective tissues with solidity and form, solid tissues can be difficult to treat, notably with immunotherapy. This treatment uses substances to boost the immune system, notably natural killer cells (NK cells) a leukocyte that kills cells that are harmful to the human body. Immunotherapy is often recommended for patients with advanced stages of cancer according to the Cancer Center and has been known to be extremely effective in treating certain types of cancers. Hence, this latest research.

Korean researchers are using 3D bioprinting to treat solid tumors (photo credits: Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM))

In essence, in immunotherapy, NK cells are injected via intravenous injection. However, in this newest method, 3D printed hydrogels encapsulate the NK cells. This helps to prevent the loss of NK cells, thus enabling a larger majority of said cells to home in on the tumor cells themselves. This is achieved by pores that form over time in the hydrogel, made from sodium alginate and gelatin, allowing NK cells to be released later on. And as they have been injected in the hydrogel, printed and then cultured, the cell viability and activity of the NK cells is also enhanced.

And so far the research has been promising. In the research paper, it was noted that the hydrogel created an appropriate environment for the NK cells thus making 3D bioprinting of the NK cells a viable potential therapy and paving the way for even more effective treatment for cancer. Principal Researcher Su A Park of KIMM concluded, “This technology can help to significantly improve the functionality of NK cells that are used for cancer treatment. We expect to contribute to the treatment of cancer patients through this newly developed technology.” You can download the full research HERE.

The process for treating cancer via bioprinting

Photo Credits: Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM)

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*Cover Photo Credits: University of Louvain

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