An experimental ‘ink’ has allowed scientists at the University of Bristol to print living human tissues. The team of researchers has published their results in Advanced Healthcare Materials, and believes this new “bio-ink” could result in the ability to print cellularly-compatible tissues that could merge with existing living tissues:
[...] the new bioink described herein offers a multitude of advantages for bioprinting, compared to single-component gel systems. We have shown that combining separate specialized, functional components can produce a smart soft biomaterial that can be extruded at high-resolution and effectively crosslinked to produce cytocompatible constructs with long-term structural fidelity.
The bio-ink is derived from two different polymers: an organic polymer sourced from seaweed, and a synthetic gel polymer used in medical devices and which can be absorbed by the body. This special formula allows printed tissues to be flexible enough to bind to any surface shape while still being strong enough to be used outside the body.
The bio-ink is extruded through a high-resolution 3D printer which can print working organs and tissues, such as an adult-sized tracheal cartilage ring the researchers printed in five weeks. Tissues can even be printed using human stem cells, which allows them to grow into the body. As the synthetic polymer dissolves, the only remaining cells are the organic seaweed-based cells and the stem cells.
According to the scientists in this study, this new stem-cell-and-seaweed-based bio-ink is a major step forward for printed tissues and could even open up the possibility of printing complete working organs and other major body parts in laboratories:
[The bio-ink] provided a platform for tissue engineering using cell-laden prints, which resulted in widespread matrix production within a confined geometry, a result that opens up new opportunities for printing tissue constructs with complex physiological structure and represents a significant advance toward the ultimate goal of recapitulating physiological tissue structures in vitro.
Mysterious Universe has already reported on synthetic living organisms being created through using modified and printed cells. These new developments could open up the possibility of sharing the Earth with so-called “designer organisms” much sooner than we thought.