Hybrid strategies for 3D bioprinting of complex musculoskeletal tissue with Miguel Oliveira

In this interview with Miguel Oliveira (University of Minho, Portugal), Oliveira discusses recent work into bioprinting musculoskeletal tissue, the future of bioprinting technologies in surgery and the challenges facing the biofabrication of musculoskeletal tissues.

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Miguel Oliveira is a biochemist and Principal Investigator (Investigador FCT 2012 and Investigador FCT 2015) at the PT Government Associate Laboratory ICVS/3B’s (University of Minho; Braga, Portugal). Oliveira is the Vice President of I3Bs - Institute 3B's (I3Bs, University of Minho) and has been the Director of pre-clinical research at the FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, Espregueira Mendes Sports Centre (Porto, Portugal) since February 2013.

Oliveira’s key areas of focus for his work have included the field of biomaterials for biofabrication, tissue engineering, nanomedicine, stem cells and cell/drug delivery. More recently, Oliveira set up a new research line within the ICVS/3B’s on 3D in vitro models for cancer research.

Oliveira has published more than 300 scientific contributions in scientific journals, six books, three special issues in scientific journals, more than 80 book chapters in books with international circulation and has approved more than 20 patents. He has participated in more than 250 communications in national/international conferences and has been invited as a keynote speaker for more than 50 plenary sessions. Oliveira has an h-index of 38, i10 of 97 and has received more than 6,000 citations. He has been awarded several prizes including the prestigious Jean Leray Award 2015 from the European Society for Biomaterials for Young Scientists for Outstanding Contributions within the field of Biomaterials. 

Could you tell us about any current (or recent) projects?

I am coordinating several ongoing projects related to 3D bioprinting of personalized implants for musculoskeletal applications (e.g. meniscus, intervertebral disc and osteochondral tissues) as well as the development of 3D in vitro models-on-a-chip for cancer research. I am also coordinating a Marie Curie Training (RISE) network for staff exchange at the University of Minho, called the BAMOS project.

How are 3D printing and bioprinting technologies involved with your group’s work?

The 3D printing and bioprinting technologies are being applied not only for developing advanced tissue engineering constructs and patient-specific implants, but also for training a new generation of scientists. 

What challenges with fabricating complex musculoskeletal tissues do 3D printing and bioprinting technologies help to overcome?

There are two great challenges related to the (bio)fabrication of musculoskeletal tissues. On one hand, there are limited types of biomaterials/bioinks available and on the other the techniques/bioprinters do not provide the required resolution for an effective emulation of the complex tissue, in respect to biology, architecture and functionality, that is aimed to (bio)fabricate. 

How do you see your work translating into medical practice?

There are two different approaches to research involving meniscus tissue regeneration. We aim both to 3D print acellular implants (off-the-shelf) for partial meniscus regeneration and develop complex tissue engineering constructs that emulate the native complex meniscus organization for making personalized implants available for total meniscus substitution. 

What’s next with your research? What should we be looking out for? 

We still have a long journey, but we need to conclude the pre-clinical validation by means of testing our approaches and implants in animal models. 

Then, we aim to establish strategic partnerships with industry and possibly create a spin-off company for exploring our IP. This strategy will help us boosting the translation of our technologies/products to the patient. 

Where do you see bioprinting in the medical field in 5–10 years’ time?

Bioprinting will not only be able to be applied as a tool for surgical planning but could possibly be applied to the fabrication of a new generation of personalized implants for use in different medical areas (orthopedics and vascular surgery, for example). 

Do you have any final comments about medical 3D printing, bioprinting or bioengineering musculoskeletal tissues you would like to share?

I believe that 3D bioprinting is still in its infancy and my dream is to see 3D bioprinting reach the operating room in the near future. 

I hope to contribute towards developing novel materials and methods that can allow 3D bioprinting techniques to be utilized inside the patient.

The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee/author and do not necessarily reflect the views of 3DMedNet or Future Science Group

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