Due to the fast pace advancements in 3D printing technologies, it is now possible to bring to life three-dimensional models designed on a computer. The growing availability of user-friendly, high-resolution printers, presents us with the opportunity to adapt this tool for multiple biological purposes. Our aim is to develop a mechanism on a customized commercial 3D printer to deliver a hydrogel material to act as a scaffold for cell proliferation.
Compared with non-biological printing, 3D bioprinting involves several complexities, such as the choice of materials, cell types, growth and differentiation factors, and technical hurdles related to the sensitivities of living cells and the formation of tissues. A modified 3D printer can efficiently deliver biological ink substances such as alginate, collagen, chitosan, gelatin, and fibrin to create a biocompatible scaffold that will host cell proliferation. The scaffold can then be suspended in culture media to initiate cell differentiation and self-assembly of the selected tissue. This platform allows for a cheaper, more effective strategy for class research projects, medical drug testing, disease research, and potentially tissue/ organ implantation.
Establishing a functional platform and experimenting with the bioprinting or scaffold-free formation of cartilage and other tissues enhances our understanding of cell and tissue biology and can have a significant impact in clinical settings. Developing an affordable mechanism will allow this technology to be demonstrated in undergraduate labs for a better understanding of how engineering tools can be applied to solve biological problems.