Beating Heart 3D Printed by Chinese Academy of Sciences on Modified Bioprinter

Learning Centre > Beating Heart 3D Printed by Chinese Academy of Sciences on Modified Bioprinter

A six-axis robotic arm has been converted into a 3D bioprinter with the ability to print cells from all angles by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

A six-axis robotic arm has been converted into a 3D bioprinter with the ability to print cells from all angles by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).A six-axis robotic arm has been converted into a 3D bioprinter with the ability to print cells from all angles by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

A six-axis robotic arm has been converted into a 3D bioprinter with the ability to print cells from all angles by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The researchers were able to construct a complex-shaped blood vessel scaffold using the modified bioprinter without causing cell damage or preventing cell growth and function, which are common problems with current bioprinting technologies.The 3D printed vascularized cardiac tissue lived for six months and demonstrated a potential approach to bioprinting functional tissues and organs in the future.

The group also created a repeat print-and-culture bioprinting method that might generate complex tissues or organs with blood vessel networks capable of maintaining long-term survival and critical functions in the future.

3D bioprinting tissues

Over the last decade, 3D bioprinting technologies have made considerable progress in developing viable patient-specific tissues. While fully printed organs are a long way off, several bioprinting firms and research teams have made significant strides in the correct direction.

3D printer manufacturer 3D Systems, for instance, is expanding its bioprinting program after acquiring bioprinting technology developer Volumetric biotechnologies, while bioprinting start-up Brinter is seeking to open up the accessibility of bioprinting with its new entry-level 3D printer, the Brinter Core. In addition, Regenerative Medicine Firm CTIBIOTECH has unveiled a new 3D bioprinting platform to provide customized medicine to those with colorectal cancer.

There have also been regulatory improvements in the bioprinting field, with BICO obtaining two new patents for 3D printing temperature-sensitive bioinks and regenerative medicine firm Matricelf licensing Tel Aviv University's patent-pending 3D bioprinting technology for organ and tissue implants. Most recently, Trestle Biotherapeutics was granted a license for a new 3D bioprinting technology that enables the production of functional human kidney tissues.

Recent regenerative medicine breakthroughs include new bioinks designed specifically for bioprinting blood vessels, the successful 3D manufacturing of living brain cells, and a new volumetric 3D printing process that can create functioning bioprinted livers.

The six-axis robot bioprinter brings no damage to cells and supports multi-dimensional cell printing. Image via Bioactive Materials.
The six-axis robot bioprinter brings no damage to cells and supports multi-dimensional cell printing. Image via Bioactive Materials.

The novel bioprinting platform

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

To make the idea a reality, they turned a six-axis robotic arm into a 3D bioprinter to enable cell printing from all angles. To prevent biomaterials from solidifying, the researchers also created a cell printing technology that transforms printed cells into blood vessel scaffolds by way of hydrophobicity, or the act of repelling water. This meant that while the blood vessel scaffolds retained their cellular activity, they also helped to promote cellular contact between cells.

The researchers developed a bioprinting technique based on natural organ development processes, using their converted bioprinter and oil bath. They printed mono and multilayer cells onto the blood vessel scaffold and cultured them for specific lengths of time in order to elicit cell-to-cell contact and new blood vessel formation. The scaffold and already printed cells were then bioprinted a second time.

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.

Bioprinting a beating heart

The researchers thought that, in theory, their print-and-culture technique might be used to create functional complex tissues and even entire organs linked with blood vessel networks and capable of surviving for extended periods of time.

The crew proved their concept by 3D generating a piece of vascularized cardiac tissue that kept rhythm and was labeled "alive" for at least six months. They then built a two-robot platform to bioprint numerous kinds of cells on complicated-shaped blood vessel scaffolds simultaneously using three-dimensional printing.

The team is hopeful that their novel bioprinting platform may provide a new approach to manufacture large-scale and functional artificial tissues and organs in an in vitro setting.

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