Grant to Fund Research into Bioprinting Face, Mouth, and Skull Tissues

Dentistry Today
Kerim Moncal, Ozbolat Lab, Penn State


Kerim Moncal, Ozbolat Lab, Penn State

Seamlessly correcting defects in the face, mouth, and skull is highly challenging because it requires precise stacking of a variety of tissues including bone, muscle, fat, and skin. Now, researchers at Penn State University are investigating methods to 3-D bioprint and grow the appropriate tissues for craniomaxillofacial reconstruction.

A five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research will allow a team of researchers to explore the use of stem cells, biomaterials, and differentiation factors to match the complex tissues of the face and head directly bioprinted during surgery. 

“With the advance in 3-D bioprinting, in-place reconstruction of composite tissues for craniomaxillofacial repair has recently become feasible as 3-D bioprinting enables complex tissue heterogeneity in an anatomically accurate and cosmetically appealing manner,” said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, Hartz Family Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics and principal investigator.

The researchers are investigating ways to bioprint appropriate tissues directly into a subject to correct damage or defects. They first will explore, in an immunodeficient rat model, bone tissue bioprinting. Next, they will research multilayered skin tissue, which includes adipose (fat) and dermis/epidermis (skin) tissue.

The researchers also will look at the impact of differentiation factors and how fat influences the growth of skin tissue. Finally, they will examine three-layer composite tissues that include bone, fat, and skin layers to determine how vascularization occurs in both soft and hard tissue regeneration. 

“We have formed a complementary collaboration that merges essential domain knowledge in bioprinting, regenerative medicine, craniomaxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, gene therapy, gene delivery, bone mechanics, and bone and skin biology with the depth necessary to propel this work,” said Ozbolat. 

The goal of the project is to produce an advanced bioprinting technology that shows the complex interactions between layers of engineered tissues and provide an understanding of how localized delivery of differentiation factors will impact craniomaxillofacial reconstruction.

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