“Our technology provide the possibility to create large-size viable tissues, so we are one step closer to generating engineered replacement tissues and organs”Ruogang Zhao

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have developed a quick approach to 3D printing that could facilitate the future development of 3D printed organs. Their innovative method helps improve standard 3D printing speeds by up to 50 times, and could ease the biotechnological fabrication of 3D printed human tissue and organs, surmounting the problem of donor organ shortages.

Although large cell-laden hydrogel models offer potential for future tissue repair and organ transplantation technology, their fabrication using 3D bioprinting is constrained by slow printing speed. This new approach uses a 3D printing method called stereolithography along with hydrogels, the latter already being used in diapers, contact lenses and scaffolds in tissue engineering, and could be applied to printing cells with embedded blood vessel networks.

It was important for the study to focus on tissue scaffolding to ensure it managed speed and precision with the fast hydrogel stereolithography printing (FLOAT) approach, which allows the production of a centimeter-sized, multi-scale solid hydrogel model in only a few minutes. This also works to significantly reduce the part deformation and cellular injury resulting from the prolonged exposure to the environmental stresses in standard 3D printing.

Engineered tissues have tended to be small in size, making them unsuitable for damaged tissue repair in clinics. However, co-lead author Ruogang Zhao told Materials Today, “Our technology provide the possibility to create large-size viable tissues, so we are one step closer to generating engineered replacement tissues and organs.”

In a video to accompany the paper, which was reported in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials [Anandakrishnan et al. Adv. Healthc. Mater. (2021) DOI: 10.1002/adhm.202002103], a machine can be seen to move into a vat of translucent yellow goo and pull out what becomes a life-sized hand. Such a process would normally take six hours with conventional 3D printing methods, but here was achieved much faster, with the potential for large sample sizes that were previously difficult to achieve.

The study demonstrated that large-size engineered tissues produced with standard printing methods can suffer from significant cellular damage caused by the extended environmental exposure to such mechanical disturbance, as well as temperature shock and a lack of nutrients. The new technology works to substantially lessen such cellular damages, allowing it to potentially find application in biomedical or tissue engineering for replacement tissues or organs for repairing damaged tissue. The team have applied for a provisional patent to help commercialize the technology.

Life-sized 3D printed hand using new approach
Life-sized 3D printed hand using new approach