Breakthrough new method for 3D-printing living tissues

Scientists have developed a radical new method of 3D-printing laboratory-grown cells that can form complex living tissues and cartilage to potentially support or augment diseased and damaged areas of the body. Printing high-resolution tissues is currently difficult because the cells often move within printed structures and can collapse.
So the team devised a new way to produce tissues in protective nanoliter droplets wrapped in a lipid (oil-compatible) coating that is assembled, layer-by-layer, into living cellular structures.
This new method improves the survival rate of the individual cells and allows for building each tissue one drop at a time to mimic the behaviors and functions of the human body. The patterned cellular constructs, once fully grown, can mimic or potentially enhance natural tissues.
“We were aiming to fabricate three-dimensional living tissues that could display the basic behaviors and physiology found in natural organisms,” explained Alexander Graham, PhD, lead author and 3D Bioprinting Scientist at OxSyBio (Oxford Synthetic Biology).*
“To date, there are limited examples of printed tissues [that] have the complex cellular architecture of native tissues. Hence, we focused on designing a high-resolution cell printing platform, from relatively inexpensive components, that could be used to reproducibly produce artificial tissues with appropriate complexity from a range of cells, including stem cells.”
The researchers hope that with further development, the materials could have a wide impact on healthcare worldwide and bypass clinical animal testing. The scientists plan to develop new complementary printing techniques that allow for a wider range of living and hybrid materials, producing tissues at industrial scale.
“We believe it will be possible to create personalized treatments by using cells sourced from patients to mimic or enhance natural tissue function,” said Sam Olof, PhD, Chief Technology Officer at OxSyBio. “In the future, 3D bio-printed tissues may also be used for diagnostic applications — for example, for drug or toxin screening.”