3D Printing ‘Paper Organs’

Researchers from China and the US have 3D printed cellulose to create scaffolds that could be used to generate tissue models for drug screening.

AsianScientist (May 16, 2019) – Using a 3D printer, an international team of scientists has generated functional organoids that better mimic organs in the body. Their findings are published in the journal Nano Letters.

Long before scientists test new medicines in animals or people, they study the effects of the substances on cells growing in petri dishes. However, a 2D layer of cells is a poor substitute for the much more complex 3D structure of tissues in organs. Organs also contain supporting cells, including nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues, which are not adequately represented by 2D cell culture.

To overcome these limitations, researchers led by Dr. Cheng Feng at the Harbin Institute of Technology, China, with colleagues in the US, 3D printed bacterial cellulose to make supports for artificial organs. Cellulose is a low-cost material typically used to make paper.

To create a breast tumor model, the researchers first 3D printed petroleum jelly-paraffin ink into a bacterial cellulose hydrogel. They then air-dried the hydrogel so that it became porous and paper-like.

When the jelly-paraffin ink was heated, it liquefied and was easy to remove, leaving behind hollow microchannels. The team subsequently wet the ‘paper organ’ and added endothelial cells—the cell type that lines blood vessels—to the microchannels. They also added breast cancer cells to the rest of the structure.

The researchers demonstrated that the endothelial cells and breast cancer cells took well to the ‘paper organ’ and began to grow within the 3D structure. They noted that their 3D printed scaffolds can be stored for long periods of time and then rehydrated to produce inexpensive tissue models, which could be useful for drug screening and personalized medicine.

The article can be found at: Cheng et al. (2019) Generation of Cost-Effective Paper-Based Tissue Models through Matrix-Assisted Sacrificial 3D Printing.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Pexels.
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