The broader impact/commercial potential of this Partnerships for Innovation - Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) project is to enable the future use of tissue engineering during minimally invasive surgical procedures deep within the human body. Currently, tissue engineering is limited by the complications associated with invasive surgeries required for implantation of these structures, called constructs. If successful, this technology is expected to enable surgeons to seamlessly integrate tissue engineering materials in their current robotic surgery practice by developing a tool that prints tissue engineering constructs using existing robotic surgery instrumentation. The tool will integrate with current robotic surgery infrastructure already installed at hundreds of research hospitals in the United States. The commercial potential for the technology will be substantial. The commercial impacts of the project are augmented by an educational outreach plan that will engage students and undergraduate researchers in engineering design problems that integrate business-relevant constraints and customer needs.
The proposed project will characterize the physical and biological properties of tissue engineering constructs printed inside of a surgical simulator using minimally invasive practices. With this new type of surgical tool and delivery method for tissue engineering materials comes the need to fully characterize the materials that are specifically tailored for printing inside the body. The objective of the research plan is to characterize the physical and biological properties of the material and redesign the technology platform based on feedback from a customer discovery study and input from project partners. The expected results are that printed tissue engineering materials will have a modulus that approximates natural tissue modulus, the degradation rate meets tissue engineering standards, and that cells embedded in the material will have greater than 70% viability. Coupled with the platform redesign, the results from the characterization study provide a basis for commercialization of the technology. The commercialization plan consists of a set of guided technology assessments and staged milestones where we will receive critical evaluations by our partners on commercial potential and business plan iteration.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.