Printing 3D structures with living cells

Posted Feb 2, 2018 by Tim Sandle
Researchers have devised a novel method for printing living cells, based on a technique called in-air microfluidics. The method could add with regenerative surgery.
Stem cells are primitive cells that  as they grow  become differentiated into the various specialise...
Stem cells are primitive cells that, as they grow, become differentiated into the various specialised cells that make up the the brain, the heart, kidneys and other organs
Mauricio Lima, AFP/File
By applying ‘in-air microfluidics’, researchers from the University of Twente have succeeded in printing 3D structures with living cells. This novel technique can lead to the rapid and ‘in-flight’ production of micro building blocks for repairing damaged tissue.
Three dimensional (3D) bioprinting refers to the utilization of 3D printing to combine cells, growth factors, and biomaterials in order to fabricate biomedical parts in ways that can imitate natural tissue characteristics. The process utilizes a layer-by-layer method to deposit materials called bioinks which create tissue-like structures. These structures can later be used for medical and tissue engineering applications.
With the link to microfluidics, this refers to manipulating tiny drops of fluid, such as in chips with tiny fluidic channels to create lab-on-a-chip systems. While such chips are useful for the laboratory, they are not fast enough for clinical applications. The new technique addresses this time limitation.
This is based on manipulating the fluids in microchannels with air. This is achieved by using two 'jets' of fluid, where droplets are shot from one jet towards the other jet. The researchers have found that smart combinations of fluids result in solid and printable building blocks in one single step.
In doing so, it is now possible to capture a living cell inside printable material. he fabricated 3D modular biomaterials have an internal structure that is quite similar to that of natural tissue, which makes them very useful for helping to repair tissues in surgery.
The research has been published in the journal Science Advances, with the paper titled "In-air microfluidics enables rapid fabrication of emulsions, suspensions, and 3D modular (bio)materials."