3D printing is a groundbreaking technology, and seemingly every other week we hear about significant technological advancements using the technique. In a new first, researchers from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have developed a 3D printing system that can print live cells into human-scale constructs representing bone, muscle, and ear tissue. These constructs are structurally stable, thanks to the use of a biocompatible synthetic polymer called polycaprolactone. Cells are suspended in a gel composed of several biodegradable materials (like gelatin, fibrinogen and hyaluronic acid that are naturally found in the body), which ensures that they are kept in place within the construct. The cells then secrete and help build a supporting matrix that integrates with the body as the construct degrades, and at the end of the process the cells have sufficiently integrated into the body and no longer need the supporting structures.
One of the big challenges so far with human-sized engineered constructs has been the lack of blood vessels that nourish the cells with oxygen and nutrients, which is severely detrimental to the potential survival of cells. In this study, the 3D printed constructs were implanted into mice, and after two months the researchers observed infiltration of the constructs with blood vessels, which is attributed to the presence of microchannels in the construct. While this technology is still a few steps away from clinical applicability, each advancement in the field brings us closer to personalized, readily available organs.
Study in Nature Biotechnology: A 3D bioprinting system to produce human-scale tissue constructs with structural integrity…
Video by Michael Musco