01.01.2021

Ligō to lead the way

A lifechanging product being developed in Sydney could revolutionise the way we approach wound repair, while also placing Australia at the forefront of the burgeoning regenerative medicine industry.

This new platform, codenamed Ligō from the Latin “to bind”, is a novel 3D bioprinting technique from fast-growing start-up, Inventia Life Science. The technology builds on a treatment that would see a surgeon begin treating a burn victim within 20 minutes.

The company’s proprietary technique offers so much promise that in July 2020 the Government’s BioMedTech Horizons program announced it will inject $1m in funding to take the device into first-in-human clinical trials within two years.

The procedure involves taking a small section of the patient’s skin, extracting the skin cells and 3D printing them directly into the wound within a supporting gel where they can begin to encourage faster healing with less scarring.

The project brings Inventia Life Science together with world- renowned skin surgeon and former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Wood who pioneered the “spray-on skin” technique to treat skin burns. Her work demonstrated that by introducing healthy skin cells such as keratinocytes, fibroblasts, and melanocytes, healing time and scarring can be reduced, improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.

The Ligō is a continuation of this spray-on skin technique that would see the recovery-enhancing skin cells encapsulated within an optimised microenvironment as they are efficiently applied to the wound.

This work is based on tried and tested technologies within Inventia’s existing product lines. The company’s commercially available Rastrum is used to bioprint three-dimensional tissue samples to provide researchers with highly accurate tissue testbeds for new medicines and cosmetics.

The Rastrum lays down cells into ordinary well plates with a gel that forms a supportive scaffold. This allows the cells to proliferate in three dimensions and more accurately represent real tissue. The results offer a cheaper, more repeatable, and more attractive option when compared to the use of live animals for testing.

This principle of laying down cellular material along with a chemically curable hydrogel is the core principle behind the Ligō, but instead of printing within a well plate, it will be used to directly treat acute wounds.

The procedure involves taking a small skin graft, extracting the skin cells and combining them with a bioink within the operating theatre. This mixture is then printed directly into the wound by a robotic device where it forms a gel. Suspending these cells in a gel creates an optimal environment to encourage the cell regeneration.

To aid the development of the project, the team brought in the bioprinting expertise of Professor Gordon Wallace as they work towards new printing techniques and bioink formulations that will enable the application of skin cells within a hydrogel structure. The majority of the work to translate the biomaterials to clinic is taking place at TRICEP, using ANFF Materials’ equipment and expertise.

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