New 3D Printer can create complex Biological Tissues
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New 3D Printer can create complex Biological Tissues

A UCLA bioengineer has developed a technique
that uses a specially adapted 3D printer to build therapeutic biomaterials from multiple
materials. The advance could be a step toward on-demand
printing of complex artificial tissues for use in transplants and other surgeries. The technique uses a light-based process called
stereolithography, and it takes advantage of a customized 3D printer that has two key
components. The first is a custom-built microfluidic chip
— a small, flat platform similar in size to a computer chip — with multiple inlets
that each “prints” a different material. The other component is a digital micromirror,
an array of more than a million tiny mirrors that each moves independently. The researchers used different types of hydrogels
– materials that, after passing through the printer, form scaffolds for tissue to
grow into. The micromirrors direct light onto the printing
surface, and the illuminated areas indicate the outline of the 3D object that’s being
printed. The light also triggers molecular bonds to
form in the materials, which causes the gels to firm into solid material. As the 3D object is printed, the mirror array
changes the light pattern to indicate the shape of each new layer. The process is the first to use multiple materials
for automated stereolithographic bioprinting — an advance over conventional stereolithographic
bioprinting, which only uses one type of material. While the demonstration device used four types
of bio-inks, the study’s authors write that the process could accommodate as many inks
as needed. The researchers first used the process to
make simple shapes, such as pyramids. Then, they made complex 3D structures that
mimicked parts of muscle tissue and muscle-skeleton connective tissues. They also printed shapes mimicking tumors
with networks of blood vessels, which could be used as biological models to study cancers. They tested the printed structures by implanting
them in rats. The structures were not rejected.

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