3D printers and bioprinters are quite similar to each other in the way they function. A typical 3D printer works by layering melted plastic, which gradually builds up into a solid shape as the plastic layers harden. In fact, bioprinters are similar to 3D printer except that they use living cells. These living cells grow within bioprinters into rudimentary tissues much like how they do in a living being.
Currently, bioprinting is used to produce model tissues for research activities and has potential applications in regenerative medicine. The current bioprinting techniques depend on printing cells embedded in hydrogels. This results in constructs of low-density that are fully under what is needed to grow functional tissues. The maneuver of different kinds of cells into a position to replicate the complex structure of an organ is still beyond their capabilities.
In a new development in the context of bioprinting, researchers at the School of Engineering, and Applied Sciences, University of Pennsylvania have exhibited a new bioprinting technique. The technique enables bioprinting of high-cell-density, spatially complex tissues.
To establish the efficacy of bioprinters, the researchers built a model of heart tissue containing a mixture of cells that imitate the aftermath of a heart attack. To create the heart tissue, researchers used hydrogel – self-healing type- that allows dense groups of cells to be collected and placed in a three-dimensional suspension.
The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
In fact, owing to their anatomy, groups of cells can be clustered into larger aggregates, known as spheroids, without a bioprinters. Meanwhile, for the research team, the spheroids amount to a potential building block for a better viewpoint of bioprinting.