2023 Pelotonia Annual Report highlights Skardal's bioprinted organoids

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Skardal stands in his research lab. He's a male presenting person wearing a plaid shirt with a vest. he's holding a petri dish.

Aleksander Skardal, Ph.D., Associate Professor in BME and member of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) was recently featured in the 2023 Pelotonia Annual Report for the innovative approach he takes for researching a variety of cancers as a Pelotonia-funded researcher.


AREA OF STUDY: Biofabrication of advanced bioengineered human cell-based in vitro models of cancer of precision oncology, cancer metastasis, and immune-oncology.

INITIAL PELOTONIA FUNDS: $200,000

ADDITIONAL FUNDING TO ADVANCE RESEARCH: $80,000 from Pelotonia $3,700,000+ from national sources


Aleksander Skardal, PhD, was trained not as a physician, but as a bioengineer — not the typical path for a cancer researcher. But he’s developed an innovative tool for research into a variety of cancers. Early in Dr. Skardal’s career, he discovered an interest in “bioprinting,” the use of 3D printing-like techniques to combine cells, growth factors and/or biomaterials to fabricate biomedical parts, often with the aim of imitating natural tissue characteristics. “I liked the idea of building very tiny, lifelike versions of brains and livers for drug screening,” Dr. Skardal says.

His interest in the field was primarily related to bioprinting human-scale tissues for transplantation — until he realized smaller-sized bioprinted tissues, also known as organoids, could be effective in cancer research. The OSUCCC – James saw the same potential and recruited Dr. Skardal from his lab at Wake Forest University to one he now runs in the Ohio State Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Organoids, and in particular patient-derived organoids, have emerged as crucial tools in cancer research. Dr. Skardal’s research, supported in part by Pelotonia donations, explores the use of personalized tumor models for diagnostics. Research models are generated for research using the patient’s tumor cells. The lab has created organoids of lung, colorectal, melanoma, sarcoma, and other cancer tumors using bioprinting, similar to 3D printing that’s popular with hobbyists and in manufacturing, except that it uses biological materials (such as cells) printed into 3D architectures.

Dr. Skardal is among researchers perfecting a cancer- and drug-screening model that’s individualized for each patient, testing how patients and their tumors might respond to existing drug and immunotherapy treatments. The Skardal Biofabrication Lab is part of the OSUCCC – James Center for Cancer Engineering.

Dr. Skardal’s models are being used in immunotherapy research and other studies. “Pelotonia’s sponsorship helped fund parts of our lab for two years,” he adds — crucial for building more big ideas.

bioprinter in the lab

HOW DOES BIOPRINTING WORK?

In the Skardal Lab, bioprinters produce 3D replicas of miniature organs or tumors using “recipes” that make up the basic cell structure of each.

Category: Research