Bioprinting the Lymph Node to generate antibodies against COVID-19

Bioprinted lymph node to generate antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 (credit to Prellis Biologics)

Race against COVID-19

Since the pandemic, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop diagnostic kits, vaccines and treatments to combat COVID-19. Antibodies, more specifically neutralizing antibodies that can bind to the virus, can help reduce and prevent infection against SARS-CoV-2. This can serve as a prevention for those of us who have not yet been infected or after recovery and reduce effects of those who are infected and in the road to recovery.

Now, some of you might wonder, so how is bioprinting going to help create antibodies?

Bioprinting a Synthetic Lymph Node 

Enter Prellis Biologics, a Bay Area early-stage venture backed bioprinting company who proposed that they can bioprint a synthetic mini lymph node that will induce immune cells to create human antibodies that are effective against SARS-CoV-2. The beauty of this approach is that there is no need to infect anyone or leverage large screening libraries, and in only 4 weeks, they can isolate a pandemic-stopping antibody using an engineered (or bioprinted) humanized in vitro model. What's unique? Prellis's bioprinting technology can create a synthetic scaffold that mimic the human lymph node, recapitulating the in vivo system, thus generating and finding antibodies that will bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. In principle, that's the idea here.

To learn more about their unique approach, watch this video

Role of the Lymph Node

To refresh our knowledge on immunology, the lymph node is an essential part of the adaptive immune system. They are small kidney shaped glands found through our body in the lymphatic system and are the major sites for lymphocyte such as T and B cells. Their main function is to act as a filter against foreign particles and produce immune cells.

In patients with cancer or immune disorders, the lymph node may not be fully functional and cannot generate the immune cells required to fight foreign particles. Clearly, this is a problem.

Other Applications

So in other areas of applications, though this is not bioprinted, a group of scientists at John Hopkins Medicine are engineering hydrogels to create an artificial lymph node to fight cancer. What this team has discovered is the T cells appear to proliferate much more readily in soft hydrogels than stiffer environments, and grew better even compared to traditional T-flask systems. This proof-of-principle study was demonstrated in mice models whereby T-cells cultured in soft hydrogels lengthen the survival of mice with tumors, and out-performed all the other experimental controls. To learn more about this work, read this Hopkins Medicine new release here or read the full article in Advance Materials.


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