Beating heart 3D printed by CAS scientists on a modified bio-printer

Researchers from the chinese academy of sciences (CAS) have converted a six-axis robotic arm into a 3D bioprinter capable of printing cells in all directions.

Using the modified bioprinter, the researchers were able to fabricate a complex-shaped scaffold of blood vessels without causing cell damage or impeding cell growth and function, which are common challenges for bio-engineering methods. current printing. The 3D-printed vascularized heart tissue remained alive and beating for six months, and may demonstrate a feasible method of bioprinting functional tissues and organs in the future.

The team also designed a repeated print-and-culture bioprinting strategy that could generate complex tissues or organs containing networks of blood vessels capable of maintaining long-term survival and key functions in the future. .

The new bioprinting platform from CAS researchers. Image via bioactive materials.

3D bio-printed fabrics

Over the past decade, significant progress has been made in the development of viable patient-specific tissues using 3D bioprinting technologies. While fully printed organs still remain a long way off, several bioprinting companies and research teams have made notable strides in the right direction.

3D printer manufacturer 3D systemsfor example, expands its bioprinting program after acquiring a bioprinting technology developer Volumetric biotechnologywhile the bio-printing start-up Brinter seeks to open up the accessibility of bio-printing with its new entry-level 3D printer, the Brinter Core. Elsewhere, Regenerative Medicine Society CTIBIOTECH unveiled a novel 3D bioprinting platform to deliver personalized medicine to colon cancer patients.

There have also been regulatory advances in bio-printing, with BICO recently granted two new patents for 3D printing of temperature-sensitive bio-inks, and a regenerative medicine company Matrixlf Licence tel aviv university patent-pending 3D bioprinting technology for organ and tissue implants. More recently, a bioengineering start-up Biotherapeutic Trestle obtained a license for a new 3D bioprinting technology that enables the production of functional human kidney tissue.

Other recent breakthroughs in regenerative medicine include new bioinks specifically for bioprinting blood vessels, successful 3D printing of living brain cells, and a new volumetric 3D printing process capable of fabricating bioprinted livers. functional.

The six-axis robotic bio-printer does not damage cells and supports multi-dimensional cell printing.  Image via bioactive materials.
The six-axis robotic bio-printer does not damage cells and supports multi-dimensional cell printing. Image via bioactive materials.

The new bioprinting platform

For their latest study, CAS researchers sought to overcome current challenges surrounding the incorporation of blood vessel networks during the bioprinting process. Most current technologies rely on immobilizing imprinted cells by adding artificial biomaterials to bioinks, which can inhibit cellular functionality and the formation of new blood vessels. This in turn reduces the biological function of the printed structure and its long-term survival.

The team started by converting a six-axis robotic arm into a 3D bio-printer to enable cellular printing in all directions. To avoid the solidification of biomaterials, the researchers also designed an oil-bath-based cell printing system that transforms the printed cells into blood vessel scaffolds by means of hydrophobicity or the process of water repelling. . This meant that the blood vessel scaffolds better maintained their cellular activity while promoting the formation of cell-to-cell contact.

The team used their converted bio-printer and oil bath to devise a repeated print-and-grow bio-print strategy, inspired by the developmental processes of natural organs. They imprinted single and multi-layered cells on the blood vessel scaffold that were cultured at certain intervals to induce the formation of cell-to-cell contact and the growth of new blood vessels. Then, the scaffold and the already printed cells were subjected to a new cycle of bio-printing.

The 3D printed artificial blood vessel is capable of angiogenesis and vasculogenesis.  Image via bioactive materials.
The 3D printed artificial blood vessel is capable of angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. Image via bioactive materials.

Bio-printing of a beating heart

The researchers believed that, in theory, their printing and culturing process could enable the manufacture of functional complex tissues and even entire organs connected to networks of blood vessels and capable of surviving for long periods of time.

The team proved their idea by 3D printing a piece of vascularized heart tissue that maintained rhythmic beats and was classified as “alive” for at least six months. They then established a two-robot platform to perform simultaneous bioprinting of multiple cell types on complex-shaped blood vessel scaffolds.

Going forward, the researchers believe their novel bioprinting platform offers a potential new strategy for fabricating artificial and functional tissues and organs at scale in an in vitro environment.

More information about the study can be found in the document titled: “A multi-axis robotic bio-printing system supporting the preservation of natural cell function and manufacturing of heart tissue”, published in the journal Bioactive Materials. The study is co-authored by Z. Zhang, C. Wu, C. Dai, Q. Shi, G. Fang, D. Xie, X. Zhao, Y. Liu, C. Wang and X. Wang.

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Featured image shows the new bioprinting platform from CAS researchers. Image via bioactive materials.