Printing Organs On-Demand With Safe Bioink

Scientists from South Korea have created a novel bioink compatible with the human body, enabling complex yet safe 3D printing of tissues and organs.

AsianScientist (Jan. 17, 2022) – A bioink with reduced toxicity can be a game changer in producing complex tissues and organs compatible with the human body. This could also potentially help in clinical applications such as treatment of diseases, show the findings of a South Korea-New Zealand research team published in Advanced Functional Materials.

Touted as the future of regenerative medicine, 3D printing provides scientists the freedom to produce elaborate designs, including human-scale organs. However, the printed output is often only as good as the ink used. If the ink isn’t safe, the printed tissue can be toxic.

Bioinks based on decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM)—an intricate, cell-free meshwork of proteins and carbohydrates—can create tissue constructs that have complex microarchitectures and are conducive to biochemical processes.

Despite their promise, current dECM-based inks have poor stability. They often require toxic ultraviolet (UV) light activators and mixtures of other materials to improve printability and scalability. Moreover, adding other components can reduce the biocompatibility of the fabricated tissues. That dilutes the bioactive properties of pure dECM.

Taking a step towards safer bioprinting, researchers led by Professor Jang Jinah of Pohang University of Science and Technology developed light-activated dECM bioinks with ruthenium/sodium persulfate (dERS), with uniquely lower cytotoxicity. Instead of UV, ruthenium/sodium persulfate (Ru/SPS) serves as a light activator, reacting with certain amino acids such as tyrosine.

As dECM bioinks have an abundance of proteins carrying tyrosine, introduction of Ru/SPS led to increased internal binding among the tyrosine molecules. Thanks to this rapid linking, dERS can match the biocompatibility and regenerative capacity of pure dECM, while allowing for more intricate geometries.

With the new bioink, the researchers also successfully fabricated cornea and heart tissues, achieving both enhanced printing flexibility and safety. They envision their material to help enable the scalable manufacturing of 3D printed tissues for a wide array of applications, from soft robots to disease models.

“dERS can serve as a platform to build tissue-specific performance for encapsulated cells and fabricate centimeter-scale living volumetric constructs,” said Jang. “This technology opens new avenues for applications in regenerative medicine.”

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2021) Light-activated decellularized extracellular matrix-based bioinks for volumetric tissue analogs at the centimeter scale.


Source: Pohang University of Science and Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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