Dr. Stuart Williams, founder of Bioficial Organs (cvregen.com), delivers an interesting overview of the future of bioengineered organs and tissues, and the medical advances that we are seeing daily. Williams has extensive experience in the areas of biomedical engineering, surgery, physiology, as well as materials science and engineering. He is the former director of research for the Department of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, former faculty at the University of Arizona, and founder of the University of Arizona Biomedical Engineering Program. In 2007, Williams was appointed as the scientific director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, a collaborative partnership between the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital. Williams received a Ph.D. in cell biology from the University of Delaware and did his postdoctoral training in pathology at the Yale School of Medicine. His strong interest in medical devices and regenerative medicine paved the path toward his development and patent of one of the first methods to use fat-derived stem and regenerative cells for therapeutic use.
Dr. Williams discusses the Bioficial Organs Program and their work to create human tissues and organs for clinical therapeutics and in vitro drug efficacy and toxicity testing by utilizing a patient’s own cells. He gives a detailed overview of the fascinating process of creating organs and tissues from biological parts. As Williams explains the human body has at least eleven different types of organs and tissues, some that are extremely complex, but some that are simpler, that can be created via the Bioficial process. He explains how the complexity is often based in the number of specific cells that are used to perform functions. As he states, the liver and the kidney are perhaps more difficult to bioprint than other organs, but that parts of tissues, such as skin, are easier to tackle successfully in regard to regenerative medicine. He discusses work they are very excited about, including their active lab program to use 3D bioprinting to create an artificial pancreas, in order to produce insulin on demand in a patient.
The biomedical engineering expert discusses specific organs that can regenerate, and those that cannot. Unfortunately, for example, the heart does not have cells within it that will repopulate a damaged area, but it may be possible to put organoids into a damaged part of the heart such that they may take up residence and begin to create a functional part. Williams discusses his extensive work focused on developing new and successful ways to remove patients’ cells and build new blood vessels from those cells that can be reinserted into the body. He cites examples of some specific work with patients that helped to advance the regenerative medicine field.
Dr. Williams discusses their exciting new plan to move bioprinting to the international space station, which will allow them to avoid the effects of gravity that can adversely impact some of their work. He relates how the fetus is formed in amniotic fluid, and thus is somewhat defying gravity as it can move about freely in its environment. And this study of those conditions, in fact, creates more questions as well as answers to how growth happens regarding organs, and the conditions and mechanisms that are involved in that complex process. Further, he discusses the shapes of organs, and how it may not be necessary to recreate organs in the same shape in which they naturally occur in the body. Additionally, he muses about regeneration, and why some organs will regenerate, but others will not, and he states that he is very interested in studying all of these issues in detail to find the answers.
Dr. Williams has authored more than 300 scientific publications and his work has generated 22 issued US patents with nearly countless patents pending. He’s the founder of six biotechnology companies and is a fellow of the American Heart Association as well as the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.