3-D printing technology has had some popular notoriety lately with claims that it can be used to print a handgun, but there is real potential for it to become a beneficial tool in reconstructive medicine.
Austin, Texas, biotech startup TeVido BioDevices LLC is working on development of a 3-D printing process that could fabricate breast tissue to be used in breast reconstruction after a lumpectomy using a women’s own fat cells, as a potential alternative to months of filling the void left by a lumpectomy with a series of fat injections that can be further slowed by reabsorption into the body; or just doing, which can leave breasts disfigured and asymmetrical.
An entrepreneur hopes to give women suffering from breast cancer an innovative alternative in dealing with the aftermath of a lumpectomy. The challenge is, can TeVido BioDevices get the millions needed in investment?
TeVido’s CEO and founder Laura Bosworth-Bucher hopes that working in partnership with a University of Texas at El Paso researcher that she can introduce a third option provided her company can raise the tens of millions of dollars in funding that will be required for research and development of the 3-D printing technique.
As Bionews Texas reported last month, it has long been a dream in medical science, biotechnology in particular, to develop capability to grow new organs in a laboratory setting, thereby creating life-saving new tissue that can be transplanted into patients. To that end, TeVido BioDevices has invented a modified inkjet printer that is capable of rendering living human tissue — capable of building true tissue pieces by placing cells in a layered pattern. According to TeVido’s 2013 executive summary report, the printer “shoots out proteins instead of ink and captures tissue on specialized gel instead of paper.” The patent-pending technique was invented by University of Texas at El Paso professor and director of metallurgical and materials engineering Thomas Boland, who is also chief science officer and co-founder of TeVido. Dr. Boland modified a garden-variety HP Deskjet 340 printer into a machine that can rearrange the cellular structure of living materials to match the tissue of any patient.
As noted, the first objective use for this remarkable technology will be for breast reconstruction that promises to be superior to typical implants or fat injections because it will be true tissue, and not be subject to the shortcomings of synthetic replacements or ongoing difficulties often associated with fat injections.
The article notes that an annual average of 120,000 women undergo lumpectomies, and of those 30,000 will be unhappy with the way their breasts look afterward. By growing new tissue from their own cells and then having the printer arrange them into the proper pattern, the lost tissue should be able to be replaced seamlessly — according to a theory.
TeVido BioDevices, LLC also believes that printing human cells could also be used in advanced wound care and healing, such as for patients suffering from severe burns and chronic non-healing wounds that cause pain, reduced quality of life, loss of productivity, and unsightly scarring, or even someday in restoring part or all of an amputated limb. Such patients often face years of multiple surgeries, painful skin grafts, and frequent trips to wound-care clinics. The company notes that estimates place annual incidence of chronic wounds at almost nine million worldwide and expanding due to aging populations, longer life expectancies, and specific increases in diabetes and obesity.
“Chronic non-healing wounds are becoming more frequent,” Laura Bosworth-Bucher noted to Joe Velarde of University of Texas at El Paso news feed utepnews. “Foot ulcers affect approximately 10 to 15 percent of patients with diabetes throughout their lifetimes, and by 2025, it is estimated that 300 million people will have diabetes.”
“We have been investigating a biodegradable hydrogel which is derived from natural proteins and carbohydrates, creating a scaffold to use as a substrate to grow cells,” Dr. Boland is quoted observing. According to his research abstract, this hydrogel is a unique composite of gelatin and alginate, both of which have very high biocompatibility, promoting cells growth and vascularization. Dr. Boland’s HP Deskjet 340 printer uses HP 33 cartridges that have been modified to control temperature and deposition. An aluminum plate adapted to the printer uses the paper feeding sensor and two switches along the y-axis of the machine to evenly distribute the gelatin into the form.
Velarde says Dr. Boland said hopes his research will also provide better outcomes for patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy and vascular disease, which reduce the normal pain sensations and healing of minor traumas, allowing the development of chronic non-healing ulcers, often preceding lower-extremity amputation (when the ulcer becomes infected and gangrenous).
An article this week in the Austin Business Journal notes that Ms. Bosworth-Bucher made TeVido’s partnership with Dr. Boland official by signing a contract to license his patents exclusively from UTEP. Since then, they have brought on a third partner –Scott Collins, who has a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin — as chief technology officer, and vice president of product development, and one full-time staff scientist, Maria Yanez.
The article notes that Ms. Bosworth-Bucher estimates TeVido will need about $40 million dollars in funding for optimizing, pre-clinical trials, setting up quality systems and human trials, and expects $10 million to $15 million to come in grants from sources like as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense’s breast cancer research program, the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, at that she also plans to seek private capital funding from venture capitalists and potential partners.
If funding can be secured, TeVido hopes to build several centralized, high-quality manufacturing facilities to produce breast tissue, and possibly branch out into nipple reconstruction and breast augmentation using a patient’s own cells.
Laura Bosworth-Bucher has a BS in Engineering from The University of Texas at El Paso, and over 25 years of cross-functional industry experience, having led numerous strategy, marketing and engineering organizations both as Executive Director at Dell Computers and at IBM. With over 17 years in product development and customer insights at both the engineering and marketing level, she has experience launching new business start-ups within a larger corporation.
Ms. Bosworth-Bucher started her career in manufacturing process development for IBM Austin, and quickly moved into management where she held a variety of management positions at IBM, including customer solutions for the start-up Network Computer Division and software development of computer-aided design tools in support of the PowerPC microprocessor design. She launched a Technical Marketing Center, earning awards for her contributions to sales, and has experience in both product and manufacturing process engineering. At Dell, Ms. Bosworth-Bucher led several Enterprise Product Group marketing and engineering functions and organizations in building strategic business partnerships, software product marketing and created multiple technical sales support functions: enabling over $500M in sales. She launched a professional services business unit and has expertise in customer support services, and is also a mentor and program Instructor for applied entrepreneurship programs (in El Paso and Austin) that teach and coach female executives to become entrepreneurs and help them begin or grow a scalable company.
Laura Bosworth-Bucher is on the Advisory Board for UT El Paso’s College of Engineering and the Board of Directors at SafePlace ((Austin’s sexual and domestic violence center) and Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering. She currently volunteers as a spanish interpreter at the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic. I In the past, she has been guest faculty at Greenlights for Non-Profit Success, and has volunteered with UT’s Women in Engineering Program, GENAustin, and Girlstart.