Although there have been advances in medical technology and donation, the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still vastly exceeds the number of donors. What sounds like a dream of the future has already been the subject of research for a few years: simply printing out tissue and organs. Now German researchers have developed a new gelatin bio-ink that can be used by 3D printing technology to produce artificial tissues.
Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) in Stuttgart, Germany, have succeeded in developing suitable bio-inks for 3D printing that consist of components from the natural tissue matrix and living cells. The substance is based on a well known biological material: gelatin. Gelatin is derived from collagen, the main constituent of native tissue.
The researchers have chemically modified the gelling behavior of the gelatin to adapt the biological molecules for printing. Instead of gelling like unmodified gelatin, the bio-inks remain fluid during printing. Once the bio-inks are irradiated with UV light, they crosslink and cure to form hydrogels. These are polymers containing a huge amount of water (just like native tissue), but which are stable in aqueous environments and when heated to physiological 37°C (98.6 degree Fahrenheit), the average temperature of the human body.
The researchers can control the chemical modification of the biological molecules so that the resulting gels have differing strengths and swelling characteristics. The properties of natural tissue can therefore be imitated – from solid cartilage to soft adipose tissue.
In Stuttgart researchers also prints synthetic raw materials that can serve as substitutes for the extracellular matrix, such as systems that cure to a hydrogel devoid of by-products, which can immediately be populated with genuine cells.
"We are concentrating at the moment on the 'natural' variant. That way we remain very close to the original material. Even if the potential for synthetic hydrogels is big, we still need to learn a fair amount about the interactions between the artificial substances and cells or natural tissue. Our biomolecule-based variants provide the cells with a natural environment instead, and therefore can promote the self-organizing behavior of the printed cells to form a functional tissue model," explains Dr. Kirsten Borchers in describing the approach at IGB.
The printers at the labs in Stuttgart have a lot in common with conventional office printers: the ink reservoirs and jets are all the same. The differences are discovered only under close inspection. For example, the heater on the ink container with which the right temperature of the bio-inks is set. The number of jets and tanks is smaller than in the office counterpart as well.
"We would like to increase the number of these in cooperation with industry and other Fraunhofer Institutes in order to simultaneously print using various inks with different cells and matrices. This way we can come closer to replicating complex structures and different types of tissue," says Borchers.
For researchers the big challenge at the moment is to produce vascularized tissue that has its own system of blood vessels through which the tissue can be provided with nutrients. IGB is working on this jointly with other partners under Project ArtiVasc 3D, supported by the European Union, to develop a technology platform to generate fine blood vessels from synthetic materials to create artificial skin with subcutaneous adipose tissue.
"This step is very important for printing tissue or entire organs in the future. Only once we are successful in producing tissue that can be nourished through a system of blood vessels can printing larger tissue structures become feasible," says Borchers.
Posted in 3D Printing Materials
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xxxx wrote at 12/1/2013 9:01:29 PM:
thanx 4 the latest update
Abdul wrote at 11/22/2013 7:35:29 PM:
This is really great. 3d printed organs will certainly revolutionize medicine for good.
Dan wrote at 11/2/2013 2:05:51 AM:
Live blood vessels can independently sprout in tissues (as it occurs after traumas, for example, or in germ development) and to form in them a microcirculatory system which feeds these tissues. But, it isn't excluded that by means of technology of hydrogel, high-precision 3D-printers (on micron level) and high-precision positioning at deposition of various types of cells on printed layers it will be possible to put automatically from various types of cells efficient tissues and organs, with ready vessels and nerves, clamping cells a temporary net matrix from hydrogel, which will not interrupt normal cells life. And later any time after the press of a cell will be able to establish interaction with each other thus that the printed structures will be transformed in fully-functional at the expense of intercellular interaction and development of natural intercellular matrix. In principle resolution of photolithographic printers allows to frame separate scaffolds even for one cell (http://www.nanoscribe.de/en/applications/3d-scaffolds-and-biomimetics). It would be probably the real breakthrough in transplantology and reconstructive medicine.