Aether, manufacturer of the Aether 1 bioprinter, announced in 2016 that it would be collaborating with multiple universities on a massive, multifaceted research project utilizing the bioprinter. The project has spawned some fascinating research, encompassing everything from artificial muscles to advancements in 3D printed organs and more. Now Aether has announced that it is collaborating with University College London and Loughborough University to develop a new approach to 3D printed nanotechnology.
The collaboration will involve the development of an ink containing nanoparticles that can act as a nanosurgical tool, a delivery system for pharmaceuticals and bioactives, or a mechanical and structural support system. It can also be used as a platform for the 3D printing of biomaterials and scaffolds.
Nanoparticles developed for the ink respond to specific wavelengths, allowing for targeted release of the carrier agent and/or degradation of the surroundings, including biomaterial surroundings, allowing for controlled deterioration of the material.
“Combining 3D printing with nanotechnology is the beginning of a new generation of medical research. The problem is that the few startups in this field are being incredibly greedy. They don’t care how powerful a tool this is in the fight against cancer, these companies won’t let a researcher even dip a toe in the water unless they get paid well over a million dollars,” said Ryan Franks, CEO and Founder of Aether. “We don’t agree with holding a life-saving technology hostage so a few executives and investors can get rich, so we’re fighting to democratize it.”
The research project will utilize a custom Aether 1 bioprinter featuring a laser system at an application-specific wavelength. The laser system will be integrated into the bioprinter and controlled with a simple user interface. Aether will also investigate how its existing and in-development computer vision and machine learning capabilities can automate, speed up, simplify and improve the process of fabrication, agent activation, and controlled material deterioration.
According to Aether, adding nanotechnology capabilities to the Aether 1 opens up a much broader range of applications than is currently available, while lowering costs by up to 98 percent. The applications for laser-activated nanomaterials include photothermal destruction of cancer cells, cancer detection, gene therapy, drug delivery, and nerve regeneration, as well as nanofabrication in materials science and nanoelectronics in quantum computing.
University College London has been involved in some significant 3D printing projects, including the Self Repairing Cities Project, which has involved the development of the first-ever asphalt 3D printer for the autonomous repair of road damage. Loughborough University has also done a great deal of work with 3D printing, including concrete construction 3D printing. The two universities will now turn their attention to 3D printing on a much smaller scale – the nanoscale. The collaboration with Aether has the potential to result in some big developments in both nanotechnology and bioprinting – with accessible results, according to Aether.
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