Bioprinting is a rapidly growing field that shows plenty of promise for improving the lives of people around the world. As such, it is a subject we’ve covered before. Just like with other additive manufacturing (AM) processes, however, bioprinting has a plethora of uses. All those smart people in lab coats keep coming up with new ideas.
A team of researchers in Scotland have made a breakthrough in bioprinting by discovering a method of printing human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). This advance could enable 3D tissues and other organic structures to be built, allowing for faster drug testing, among other possible applications.
The study, which has been published under the title “Development of a valve-based cell printer for the formation of human embryonic stem cell spheroid aggregates” in Biofabrication, was conducted at Heriot-Watt University in partnership with Roslin Cellab, a stem cell technology company. The researchers used a valve-printing process that was specifically designed to account for the delicate nature of hESCs.
“Using this valve-based method, the printed cells are driven by pneumatic pressure and controlled by the opening and closing of a microvalve. The amount of cells dispensed can be precisely controlled by changing the nozzle diameter, the inlet air pressure or the opening time of the valve,” said co-author, Dr. Will Wenmiao Shu.
“We found that the valve-based printing is gentle enough to maintain high stem cell viability, accurate enough to produce spheroids of uniform size, and, most importantly, the printed hESCs maintained their pluripotency — the ability to be differentiated into any other cell type,” added Shu.
If approved, this particular breakthrough should thrill PETA, by eventually making animal testing obsolete. Other applications for hESC bioprinting include building new organs for needy patients from their own biological material. This has the potential to nearly eliminate the medical field’s current dependency on organ donors, as well as reduce the need for immune suppression, and would overcome transplant rejection.
Below you’ll find an interesting video that talks about stem cells.