3D-printed, biocompatible hydrogel sugar sensor could disrupt landscape of glucose monitoring

A collaborative team of researchers has 3D printed a biocompatible hydrogel sugar sensor, employing a novel bioink functionalized with sugar-sensing molecules.

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Researchers at AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research; Dublin, Ireland) in collaboration with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics (Dublin, Ireland) and the University of Wollongong (Australia) have utilized 3D printing to develop a smart sensor to measure the biochemical environment of cells.

Described in Macromolecular Rapid Communications, the team reports success in the development of a new generation of smart sensors based on hydrogels, often found in many different glucose sensors. The hydrogel can prolong the sensor timeline, providing mechanical stability, functionality and can even be transitioned into a ‘smart gel’, facilitating drug delivery.

The team utilized a novel bioink to develop 3D-printed gelatin hydrogel scaffolds, functionalized with sugar-sensing molecules.


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While this research remains in the early stages, the team appears to be very optimistic about the potential use of the sensors for the minimally invasive monitoring of glucose in people with diabetes, among others.

Larisa Florea, AMBER Investigator, explained:

Over the past few years we have been really interested in finding ways to measure glucose concentrations. Our results indicate that we have found a way to do this by using glucose sensing compounds and combining them with 3D printing technologies. A very common use for 3D printing of bioinks is to make scaffolds for growing cells and tissue. The added value our work brings, is that by adding certain molecules into these scaffolds, by functionalizing them, we can potentially create scaffolds that grow cells and also sense and report on the environment of the cell. So this study has far reaching consequences beyond sugars, it serves as a blueprint for the generation of 3D-printed chemical sensing platforms.”

This truly was a team effort; from our very talented PhD student, Danille Bruen at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics who developed the glucose sensing compounds used in the study, to Gordan Wallace at University of Wollongong who brings vast expertise in the area of 3D printing technologies and enabled us to print our final bioink. This collaboration illustrates the benefits of bringing together the possibilities of novel materials with the vast field of 3D printing. We would certainly hope to continue this successful collaboration into the future and broaden the scope of the research into new and exciting areas,” Florea concluded.

Source: Bruen D, Delaney C, Chung J, Ruberu K, Wallace GG, Diamond D, Florea L. 3D-printed sugar-sensing hydrogels. Macromol. Rapid Commun. 41(9), 1900610 (2020); http://ambercentre.ie/news/single/3d-printed-biocompatible-hydrogel-sugar-sensor-breakthrough

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