Oct 29, 2016 | By Benedict

Students from the Technical University of Munich have hacked an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer and developed a special 3D printable bio-ink called “biotINK.” The students have entered their project into the iGEM challenge, an annual biology contest.

3D bioprinting is one of today’s most exciting areas of scientific research. Using special 3D printers, experts have been able to fabricate precisely shaped tissue from real human cells, and could soon be able to make 3D printed human organs for transplantation and other uses. To print cells, however, extra substances are needed. Cells themselves do not have the printer-friendly material properties of, say, PLA, so cannot simply be extruded from a nozzle. Instead, scientists tend to use something called a bio-ink, a substance with which cells can be mixed in order to make them printable.

A group of students from Germany’s Technical University of Munich has developed its own unique bio-ink for 3D bioprinting, entering their research into the iGEM challenge, an annual contest for biologists, biochemists, and bioengineers. The students’ bio-ink contains biotin, commonly known as vitamin B7, as well as streptavidin, a protein with a high affinity for biotin that works like a glue. Because the bio-ink contains biotin, the team decided to call it “biotINK.”

The researchers believe that their new 3D bioprinting ink eliminates some of the problems associated with other bioprinting techniques, which typically require temporary scaffolds to support the organic structures. By using biotin and streptavidin, the researchers’ biotINK functions as a kind of “molecular superglue,” binding the biotin to the receptors and allowing scientists to precisely 3D print cells while locking them in position. This much faster bioprinting method enables the formation of “three-dimensional intercellular contacts and physiological microenvironments.”

“All of these things cross-link with each other because streptavidin has binding sites for biotin, and is capable of binding biotin to our receptor,” said team member Luisa Krumwiede. “They should then polymerize and form a 3D structure.”

Another important advantage of the biotINK is its compatibility with regular FDM 3D printers such as the Ultimaker 2+, a machine which is far less expensive than a dedicated 3D bioprinter. Although some modifications were made to the Ultimaker to enable it to print cells, the TU Munich students believe that any lab in the world could adapt a 3D printer in the same way. Enabling more laboratories to experiment with 3D bioprinting will no doubt accelerate developments in the field, contributing to better future healthcare for everyone.

In addition to developing biotINK and its 3D printing system, the students also developed several ways to functionalize 3D printed tissue. In an effort to create synthetic organs, the students modified cells to secrete insulin in response to infrared light, and have also attempted to induce vascularization in the 3D printed tissue.

The grand finale of the iGEM challenge takes place in Boston, and the German students believe they have every chance of winning. “If I didn’t think that we had a chance, then I wouldn’t go,” said Krumwiede.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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ChevyChaser wrote at 10/31/2016 5:02:08 PM:

This is one great way to invalidate a warranty on that 3D printer. Good luck.

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