Mar 7, 2018 | By Tess

Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada are developing a new 3D bioprinting technique which could be used to produce 3D structures from living bio-tissues and which could be beneficial for treating those with severe burns, organ problems, and cancer. The laser-based bioprinting method is being developed at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

UBC engineering associate professor Keekyoung Kim

The new bioprinting technology is called “direct laser bioprinting” and consists of a low-cost laser diode setup that solidifies structures from a biocompatible hydrogel material. These hydrogel structures can be printed in a variety of complex, cross-linked patterns and can then be infused with living cells, resulting in a bioprinted living tissue.

Keekyoung Kim, a engineering professor who is developing the bioprinting technology, said: “One of the ultimate goals in biomedical engineering is to recreate viable, healthy, and living tissues. The applications are staggering and could range from helping people suffering from ailments such as severe burns or organ failure to creating artificial tissues for research into diseases like cancer.”

What sets the innovative bioprinting technique apart from existing methods? Well, according to the UBC researchers, direct laser bioprinting is capable of creating artificial tissues at a much higher resolution than existing processes. In addition to having fine resolutions, the 3D bioprinted hydrogel structures are reportedly able to support living cells with 95 percent effectiveness.

“The tissue pattern, which has extremely fine features and high cell viability, firmly demonstrates that our system has real potential to create functional, engineered tissue,” Kim explained. “I’m excited by what this could bring to biomedical research.”

One of the first applications for the bioprinting technology, says Kim, will be for cancer treatment research. The 3D printed tissue structures will be suitable for housing and growing cancer cells, which can then be used as biological models for cancer research and testing.

UBC's Okanagan Campus

Within the field of cancer research, 3D biological models are gaining in importance, as they provide a more realistic setting for cancer cells to grow and live, thus making them more effective for developing treatments.

A recent research project involving the 3D bioprinting technology explored the 3D printed tissue’s capacity to support and house healthy cells. This experiment, recently written about in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials, involved printing a hydrogel structure that “encapsulated a commonly used line of breast cancer cells.”

Ultimately, Kim and his interdisciplinary team (including engineering professor Jonathan Holzman and chemistry professor Fred Menard) hope that the direct laser bioprinting method will enable medical researchers to advance treatment research for a range of health problems.

“Bio-tissue printing applies knowledge in biology, chemistry, and microfabrication toward the health sciences,” added Holzman. “I think our recent success in bio-tissue printing came about from the multidisciplinary nature of our team.”

UBC’s effort to develop a 3D bioprinting method for constructing three-dimensional cell cultures is not a unique one. In June, BioServe Space Technologies, a NASA-affiliated research center in Colorado announced its plans to bioprint 3D cell structures in space for the purpose of advancing cancer research.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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