Aug 30, 2016 | By Alec

The 3D bioprinting of tissues, blood vessels and even complete organs that can be implanted into patients; it’s about as futuristic as it gets, but is seen as a serious target for numerous researchers around the world. But all are faced with one significant obstacle: how do you 3D print a scaffolding in which the cells can live and grow? While most solutions revolve around embedding stem cells in a hydrogel structure, it is proving very difficult to find a 3D printable consistency that is strong enough to support the cells. University of Texas Arlington’s Kyungsuk Yum is therefore working on a 3D printable bioink filled with carbon nanotubes, which will hopefully provide enough support for the cells, and has just received a $100,000 National Science Foundation grant for his research.

Of course Yum is not the first to try and find a way around this hydrogel obstacle. Among others, a team of researchers from Penn State University is working to inject cartilage cells into alginate to produce a 3D printable material. But Yum, who is an assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department of the University of Texas Arlington, is working on a solution that might be more widely applicable.

As he explains, 3D bioprinting completely revolves around 3D printable, biocompatible inks that can encapsulate cells and facilitate growth. But to 3D print custom structures, the material needs to be in a liquid state that hardens once 3D printed to create self-supporting structures. Unfortunately, it is providing difficult to achieve a balance between the liquid and the solid state – creating structures that are too weak and unstable. “Ideally, bioinks should be liquid-like during the printing process, but solid-like after. We are developing a nanocomposite bioink that incorporates carbon nanotubes,” Yum said. “Our bioink will change its mechanical properties and become liquid-like when pressure is applied for printing, but revert to a solid-like material when that pressure is released after printing.”

If this carbon nanotube approach is successful, it should be a huge step forward towards much larger tissue structures and even 3D printed organs. “Organs are very complex structures. If we’re successful, we’ll be able to print more complex, 3D tissue structures with higher resolution that are more similar to those within our body. From there, we can work to develop a new technology that will eventually lead to printing physiologically relevant 3-D tissues and ultimately working organs,” Yum said.

According to UTA’s Stathis Meletis, who chairs the Materials Science and Engineering Department, this bioink study also perfectly fits into their University’s strategy. “Dr. Yum’s transformative research in materials science and engineering will have a tremendous effect in the areas of bioengineering and biology,” Meletis said. “The broad application of his research can impact the future of the field, and it could change lives. UTA’s emphasis on innovation is already paying dividends.”

While it will take some time before this bioink study will yield results, Yum certainly has the CV to back up his claims. He has been at UTA since 2013, following postdoctoral appointments at the University of California, Berkeley, and MIT. He also recently received a grant from the Texas Medical Research Collaborative for the development of an injectable, near-infrared optical biosensor nanotube – which constantly analyses glucose levels in diabetes patients. His UTA research group is particularly focused on micro- and nano-scale materials at the intersection of physical sciences and engineering and on that of life sciences and biomedicine.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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