In the recently published ‘Combining additive manufacturing with microfluidics: an emerging method for developing novel organs-on-chips,’ Chinese researchers are exploring a complex but increasingly popular topic in 3D printing, combining the technology with devices like organs-on-chips (OOCs).
As additive manufacturing continues to spur on new developments in research and other areas such as education (in nearly every grade—all the way up to the highest graduate degrees) and engineering, greater innovation continues in OOCs, microfluidic platforms used to imitate the functionality of human organs.
While OOCs were initially much more rudimentary and lacking in necessary adjustability, today they are incredibly advanced as scientists move closer and closer to their goal of being able to transplant 3D printed organs into the human body with success. And while bioprinting has progressed immensely, the technique is still laden with challenges due to the delicate nature of tissue engineering.
Recently, new efforts have been made to bioprint with OOCs, including projects such as:
- Large-scale microfluidics
- Precise 3D cellular architectures
- Flow control for stable microenvironment maintenance
- Generation of tissue/organ-level structures
- Tissue-to-tissue interfaces
Bioprinting is usually separated into scaffold-based and scaffold-free methods. Scaffold-based bioinks are meant to:
- Interact with cells
- Provide vehicles for cell loading
- Build scaffolds for tissue formation
They are often either naturally gleaned from materials like gelatin or alginate, as well as synthetics like polyethylene glycol and Pluronic©.
“In cell-laden hydrogels, biologically active components including growth factors, other extracellular matrix (ECM)-associated proteins are usually encapsulated for enhancing cell adhesion, cell proliferation or differentiation,” state the researchers. “Solidification of printed hydrogels is realized through thermal, photo cross-linking, or ionic/chemical cross-linking processes. Recently, hydrogel bioinks have been doped with nanomaterials for improving robustness and cell differentiation.”
As bioprinting continues to advance, we have seen:
Characterization continues in 3D bioprinted OOCs also, assessing both development and functionality using biochemical and biomechanical analyses. As the research team points out though, cell viability is an ‘essential parameter’ when it comes to OOC development. Biochemical studies are used to test OOCs with genetic and protein expression information also.
“In brief, from a view of printing resolution, the extrusion-based printing, which has been the most widely accepted is still not yet compatible for all design when the on-chip structures become more sophisticated and heterogeneous. SLA has a higher resolution, but the cell viability is inevitably affected during laser or UV light exposing,” conclude the researchers.
“In parallel, integration of embedded physical, biochemical and optical sensors with OOCs can record real-time cell behavior and environmental parameters. All these innovations will extend the applications of bioprinting integrated OOCs in fundamental research and clinical settings.”
What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.[Source / Images: ‘Combining additive manufacturing with microfluidics: an emerging method for developing novel organs-on-chips’]
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