If we’re going to 3D print tissues, organs, and entire body parts, scientists will have to create advanced, highly functional bioinks. Plus, these bioinks will have to withstand being printed and must survive within the harsh interior of the body. At the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology and University of Stuttgart in Germany, researchers are working on this goal and they’ve already developed a number of liquid bioinks that contain living cells among a mixture of other ingredients.
The new bioinks are made of biopolymers, including gelatin and hyaluronic acid, an aqueous medium, and the living cells to be proliferated. These are deposited a layer at a time and in different sequences to create a hydrogel of the necessary shape that is desired. They’re like Jell-O at this point, but thanks to the magic of UV light, the molecules within the material cross-link and create strong connections, fundamentally changing the consistency of the material.
Different levels strength can be created by programming the bioinks to have more or less of certain components, so anything resembling between cartilage and fatty tissue is theoretically possible. Even bone-like materials are possible by modifying the biomolecules being used and adding additional materials, such as minerals, to the mix.