Scientists from the University of Oxford have created a new method to 3D print laboratory-grown cells to form living structures.
This development has the potential to produce complex tissues and cartilage that could support or repair diseased or damaged parts of the body. It is hoped this new development by Oxford Synthetic Biology (OxSyBio), a spin-out from the University, could revolutionise regenerative medicine.
Dr Alexander Graham, lead author and 3D Bioprinting Scientist from OxSyBio, a spin out from the University, said: “To date, there are limited examples of printed tissues, which 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 reproduce artificial tissues with appropriate complexity from a range of cells including stem cells.”
3D printing living tissue techniques have struggled with accurately controlling cellular position. Cells often move within their printed structures meaning supporting scaffolding collapse. However, Dr Graham’s team devised a method to produce tissues in self-contained compartments that support structures to keep their shape.
The printed cells were encased within protective nanolitre droplets wrapped in a lipid coating that can be assembled, a layer at a time, into living structures. This increases the likelihood of cell survival. A possible application could include making reproducible human tissue models, reducing the need for clinical animal testing.
Dr Sam Olof, Chief Technology Officer at OxSyBio, said: “There are many potential applications for bioprinting and we believe it will be possible to create personalised treatments by using cells sourced from patients to mimic or enhance natural tissue function. In the future, 3D bio-printed tissues may be also used for diagnostic applications – for example, for drug or toxin screening.”
Over the next few months, the researchers will work to develop new complementary printing techniques that allow the use of a wider range of living and hybrid materials, to produce tissues on an individual scale.