A stunning breakthrough at the University of Bristol has led to the development of a new bio-ink that can perform 3D printing of a living tissue – a process known as bioprinting.
The bio-ink contains stems cells and is composed from two different polymers. The first is a natural polymer extracted from seaweed. This is combined with a synthetic polymer commonly used in the medical industry. Its purpose is to solidify the ink when the temperature is raised. The stem cells used in the process are called osteoblasts and chondrocytes. They are responsible for secretion of bone substance and cartilage.
Dr. Adam Perriman from School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine is the lead researcher responsible for the development of bio-ink. According to Perriman, they faced numerous challenges during the development, such as finding a material which was printable, durable enough to sustain its shape when immersed in nutrients and not harmful to the stem cells. Under his direction, the team was able to engineer several tissue structures including a tracheal cartilage ring.
The new bio-ink for 3D printing of living tissues has a vast potential including the production of complex tissues for surgical implants. For instance, doctors could use a patient’s own stem cells for creating implants used in knee and hip surgeries.