The discovery of a new method of additive manufacturing is promising to bring revolution in the field of bioprinting, and more specifically on the 3D printing of organs and their acceptance rates. Less than three years ago, Gartner had predicted this development to take place over the following decade, so it took just a minimal time to confirm this positive estimate.
The recent developments come from TU Wien, in Austria, where researchers managed to develop a new bioprinting technique based on the use of a special type of ink. The scientists have managed to inject the bio-ink on pre-fabricated 3D matrixes on a precision level that goes down to the micrometer. This way, a live 3D scaffolding is built at a rate of one meter per second and then left for a couple of weeks to reach maturity.
The bio-ink contains stem cells, which enable a whole host of potential treatment scenarios and a wide range of versatility. Moreover, the TU Wien team uses a special laser beam to shoot the ink so that it solidifies in a way that results in a stiff yet flexible structure that is also permeable as required for living cells. The trick of the team when applying the laser is to do it both very rapidly and with high precision. Living cells in the bio-ink can quickly die if hit by laser beams, so this is a very important aspect of the process.
To achieve the feat, the team developed and used a method involving two-photon polymerization. According to this method, when a molecule of the material absorbs two photons, the laser beam activates a chemical reaction right at that point. Thus, the environmental substance stiffens while the surroundings are left unaffected. This sounds slow and tedious, but the researchers have managed to print whole structures in a few hours and noticed that these structures survive well.
Image by TU Wien