University of Oxford scientists have developed a new method for 3D-printing laboratory-grown cells to form living structures.
The new method enables the production of complex tissues and cartilage that can potentially support, repair or augment diseased and damaged areas of the body.
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, demonstrates how human and animal cells can be 3D printed into high-resolution tissue constructs.
Developing an efficient 3D printer for living tissues has been a challenge for researchers due to the difficulty of controlling and positioning cells in a 3D environment. The cells can shift inside printed tissues and the scaffolding printed to support the cells can collapse on itself.
The Oxford researchers new approach is able to build tissues in self-contained cells that support the structures to maintain their shape.
In order or protect the cells the researchers placed them inside nanolitre droplets wrapped in a lipid coating that can be combined into living structures. Protecting the cells this way improves the survival rate of the individual cells and lets tissues be built more precisely.
The approach also allows for the creation of patterned cellular constructs, which can mimic and potentially enhance natural tissues and organs.
Simulated printed network folding up:
Actual printed network folding up:
“We were aiming to fabricate three-dimensional living tissues that could display the basic behaviours and physiology found in natural organisms. To date, there are limited examples of printed tissues, which have the complex cellular architecture of native tissues. Hence, we focused on designing a high-resolution cell printing platform, from relatively inexpensive components, that could be used to reproducibly produce artificial tissues with appropriate complexity from a range of cells including stem cells.” said Dr Alexander Graham, lead author and 3D Bioprinting Scientist at OxSyBio
In the future the researchers hope that products of their 3D bioprinter could significantly impact medicine.
“There are many potential applications for bioprinting and we believe it will be possible to create personalised treatments by using cells sourced from patients to mimic or enhance natural tissue function.” said Dr. Sam Olof, Chief Technology Officer at OxSyBio.
Dr Sam Olof – Making Synthetic Biology Real:
Over the coming months they will work to develop new complementary printing techniques, that will allow the use of a wider range of living and hybrid materials, with the aim of producing tissues at industrial scale.
The researchers have created a startup called OxSyBio to commercialize their 3D bioprinter.