German researchers have developed a new gelatin bio-ink that can be used by 3D printing technology to produce various types of tissue and organs.
Scientists have long been working to improve methods and procedures for artificially producing tissue. In the current work, researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) in Stuttgart, Germany, developed a suitable bio-ink for 3D printing that consist of gelatin-based components from natural tissue matrix and living cells. Gelatin is a well-known biological material derived from collagen that serves as the main constituent of native tissue.
The IGB researchers were able to chemically modify the gelling behavior of the gelatin to adapt the biological molecules for printing. This allowed the bio-ink to remain fluid during printing, instead of gelling like unmodified gelatin. Once the bio-inks are irradiated with UV light, they crosslink and cure to form hydrogels – polymers containing a large amount of water (just like native tissue), but which are stable in aqueous environments and when heated to 98.6 degree Fahrenheit – the average temperature of the human body.
The chemical modification of these biological molecules can be controlled so that the resulting gels have differing strengths and swelling characteristics, allowing researchers to imitate various properties of natural tissue – from solid cartilage to soft adipose tissue.
The IGB research facility also prints synthetic raw materials that can serve as substitutes for the extracellular matrix, such as systems that cure to a hydrogel devoid of by-products, which can immediately be populated with genuine cells.
“We are concentrating at the moment on the ‘natural’ variant. That way we remain very close to the original material. Even if the potential for synthetic hydrogels is big, we still need to learn a fair amount about the interactions between the artificial substances and cells or natural tissue. Our biomolecule-based variants provide the cells with a natural environment instead, and therefore can promote the self-organizing behavior of the printed cells to form a functional tissue model,” said Dr. Kirsten Borchers in describing the approach at IGB.
Via Kalani Kirk Hausman