Volumetric bioprinting technique allows quick production of complex vascularized tissue

A novel, volumetric bioprinting technique has been developed utilizing an optical method to quickly sculpt complex shapes into stem cell-laden hydrogels, while building vascular networks into the resulting tissues.

Aug 28, 2019
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Volumetric bioprinting is the name coined for a novel bioprinting technique, capable of quickly sculpting complex shapes into stem cell-laden hydrogels, while concomitantly building complex vascular networks within the resulting tissues.

The ground-breaking study, published in Advanced Materials, is set to revolutionize current tissue engineering methods, currently limited by their ability to produce complex shapes while ensuring survival of the stem cells.

These issues could now be a thing of the past, as researchers from École Polytechnique Fédéral Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland), in collaboration with colleagues from Utrecht University (Utrecht, Netherlands) have developed an optical technique, capable of quickly sculpting complex tissue shapes utilizing a biocompatible stem cell-laden hydrogel. The researchers then vascularized the structures by adding endothelial cells.

The volumetric bioprinting technique uses a laser, projected down a spinning tube filled with a stem cell-laden hydrogel. The researchers shape the tissue by focussing the energy from the light at specific locations, which causes the hydrogel to solidify without harming the stem cells, forming complex structures in only a few seconds. The researchers then introduce endothelial cells to the complex to vascularize the tissue.

The researchers have applied the technique to the engineering of tissue constructs measuring several centimetres in length. The team has also developed valves that are similar to heart valves, a meniscus and a complex-shaped part of the femur.

“Unlike conventional bioprinting – a slow, layer-by-layer process – our technique is fast and offers greater design freedom without jeopardizing the cells' viability,” added Damien Loterie (École Polytechnique Fédéral Lausanne).

The researchers believe their technique will revolutionise the future of tissue engineering allowing rapid mass production of artificial tissues and organs, potentially removing or reducing the need to test new drugs on animal models.

“This is just the beginning. We believe that our method is inherently scalable towards mass fabrication and could be used to produce a wide range of cellular tissue models, not to mention medical devices and personalized implants,” concluded Christophe Moser (École Polytechnique Fédéral Lausanne).

Sources: Bernal PN, Delrot P, Loterie D, Li Y, Malda J, Moser C and Levato R. Volumetric bioprinting of complex living‐tissue constructs within seconds. Adv. Mater., doi: 10.1002/adma.201904209 (2019) (Epub ahead of print); https://actu.epfl.ch/news/bioprinting-complex-living-tissue-in-just-a-few-se/ 

FAQ

What does ‘bioprinting’ mean?

Bioprinting is essentially the 3D printing of tissues from ‘bioinks’, developed from viable living cells.

What can bioprinting be used for?

Bioprinting has already been used in the development of tissues and 3D cultures to create miniature organ or tissue-like constructs. These tissues or ‘organoids’ have applications in many areas of R&D, particularly in the testing or screening of novel therapeutics. One day, some researchers predict that we could use advanced bioprinting techniques to print personalized replacement organs and biological components, thus relieving the burden of organ donation registers and reducing problems associated with rejection following organ transplantation procedures.

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Find out more about what we can already do with bioprinting:

Why is bioprinting important?

Bioprinting is important for many reasons, aside from the potential future applications in organ donation and tissue replacement previously highlighted. A key advantage of bioprinting is the ability to print small collections of cells from personalized bioinks, which could eventually be taken directly from the patient. In theory, it may not be too long before biopsies of tumors are taken directly from a patient and then used to create tailor-made tumors in the laboratory. Multiple drugs and combinations of drugs could then be applied to find the best treatment strategy.

Have any additional questions about this story? Ask us in the comments, below.

Mike Gregg

Commissioning Editor, Future Science Group

I have now left Future Science Group and the role of Commissioning Editor for the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine. For any journal related enquiries, please contact Daniel Barrett at: d.barrett@futuremedicine.com

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