A collaborative team of researchers from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Laser Zentrum Hannover, a photonics research institute in Germany, have managed to 3D print bio-compatible tissue scaffolds using riboflavin, more commonly known as vitamin B2.
In order to achieve this the researchers adopted a 3-D printing technique called two-photon polymerization. During this process a photosensitive block of precursor liquid reacts with a targeted light source. The light source selectively solidifies the liquid into 3D patterns via polymerization allowing complex structures such as tissue scaffolds to be printed.
A major drawback of this process, traditionally, is the toxicity of the photosensitive chemicals used to make the precursor liquid, making them unsuitable for medical applications. In this present study the research team used riboflavin to make the precursor liquid both bio-compatible and photosensitive.
For all of you engineers and laser fanatics, there is a detailed description of the technology used to create the scaffolds here complete with a 3D printed micro-scale dragon. The researchers have published their results online, in the journal Regenerative Medicine and the team believe their technique will enable testing of a wide variety of bio-compatible materials for scaffold designs in the future.
LZH Technical Note: Two-Photon Polymerization: A New Approach to Micromachining
Study abstract: Two-photon polymerization of polyethylene glycol diacrylate scaffolds with riboflavin and triethanolamine used as a water-soluble photoinitiator
Press release: Study Finds Natural Compound Can Be Used for 3-D Printing of Medical Implants