Researchers have developed a printing technique that uses naturally existing cells and molecules to create constructs that resemble biological structures. Doing so makes it possible to observe how cells work and behave in their natural environment, making it possible to study scenarios such as cancer growth or immune-cell interactions with other cells.
Combines printing and self-assembly
The technique integrates the micro- and macroscopic control of structural features that printing provides with the molecular and nanoscale control enabled by self-assembly. Because of this, it addresses a major need in 3D printing where commonly used printing inks have limited capacity to actively stimulate the cells that are being printed.
The technique embeds naturally occurring structures in ink similar to their native environment, mimicking the environment of the human body. Structures are built by assembling molecules like building blocks, with additive manufacturing similar to 3D printing, to recreate complex structures.
These structures can be manufactured under digital control and with molecular precision, which also enables the researchers to create constructs that mimic body parts or tissues for tissue engineering or regenerative medicine.
This research was carried out by Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the University of Oxford.
For more about this work, see the researchers’ published findings in Advanced Functional Materials. The short video below gives a brief synopsis of the technology as well (contains audio, so lower your volume accordingly.)
Image: Screenshot from YouTube video posted by Rafael Castrejon.