May 15, 2018 | By Tim Patterson

Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a technique that uses a specially adapted 3D printer to build therapeutic biomaterials from multiple materials. They are hoping the on-demand 3D printing of complex skin-like tissues could be used in transplants and other surgeries in the near future.

“Tissues are wonderfully complex structures, so to engineer artificial versions of them that function properly, we have to recreate their complexity. Our new approach offers a way to build complex biocompatible structures made from different materials,” says Ali Khademhosseini of UCLA, who led the study.

According to a study published Monday, Khademhosseini's 3D printer has two key components. The first is a custom-built microfluidic chip, a small, flat platform similar in size to a computer chip that handles the flow of liquids. It has multiple inlets that each “prints” a different material. The other component is a digital micromirror, an array of more than a million tiny mirrors that each moves independently.

The technique uses a light-based process called automated stereolithographic bioprinting. The micromirrors direct light onto the printing surface, and the illuminated areas indicate the outline of the 3D object that’s being printed. The light also triggers molecular bonds to form in a variety of hydrogel bioinks, which causes the gels to firm into solid material. As the 3D object is printed, the mirror array changes the light pattern to indicate the shape of each new layer.

The process is the first to use multiple materials for automated stereolithographic bioprinting, as conventional stereolithographic bioprinting only uses one type of material. Khademhosseini says that the researchers used four types of bioinks, but says in their study that the process could use as many inks as needed.

Researchers first used the 3D printing process to make simple shapes, such as pyramids. Then, they moved on to complex 3D structures that imitated parts of muscle tissue and muscle-skeleton connective tissues. They then 3D printed shapes mimicking tumors with networks of blood vessels. They tested the 3D printed structures by implanting them in rats. The rats’ bodies incorporated the artificial materials, the structures were not rejected. These 3D printed tumors allow researchers to test biological models in studies on various cancers.

The co-senior author of the study is Yu Shrike Zhang of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The other authors are from University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Sharif University of Technology, Iran; and UC San Diego.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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