Here comes another breakthrough in 3D printing, which is known as Bio-printing. The researchers at the University of Bristol have found a way of printing live tissues with the help of a new bio-ink for 3D printing with stem cells. This ink consists of 2 components- A natural polymer derived from natural seaweed and a synthetic polymer that gets removed eventually.
The lead researcher Adam Perriman (school of cellular and molecular medicine) said that they were faced with challenges of designing a bio-ink that was printable, and sturdy enough to maintain its shape when added to the nutrients, and at the same time would not harm the cells.
The role of the synthetic polymer was to make the bio-ink change from liquid to solid on raising the temperature and the seaweed polymer builds the shape when the cells are introduced.
The bio-ink flowed from a retrofitted benchtop printer, and the liquid converted to a gel at 37 degree Celsius allowing the formation of the cells.
As per the findings published in the Advanced Healthcare Materials, this technology could aid in building complex tissues by using the patient’s own stem cells. The cartilage transplants could be used in orthopedic surgeries of the knee and hip. The stem cells were further broken down to osteoblasts, which are cells that contain the matrix of cartilage and become embedded in it. This helped in constructing 3D printed tissues in 5 weeks which included a full-size tracheal cartilage ring.
The most interesting part was that when the cells were added, synthetic polymer completely exited from the 3D structure, and only the stem cells and the natural seaweed polymer were left behind. This mechanism created microscopic pores in the structure through which nutrient access by the stem cells was possible.