Inkjet prints human cells
Technology Research News
of the key tools used in research aimed at growing replacement organs and
tissues is the everyday inkjet printer.
The printers have been used to make scaffolds for growing tissue
and to spray cells in nutrient-rich liquids onto surfaces. Key challenges
are putting the right cells in the right places and ensuring that the cells
survive the rough ride.
Researchers from the University of Manchester in England have devised
a method that delivers human cells unharmed to chosen locations within polymer
scaffolds. "The scaffold is... built from a material designed to degrade
in the body and be absorbed over a timescale of months," said Brian Derby,
a professor of materials science at the University of Manchester. "While
this occurs, the cells multiply and generate tissue to replace the scaffold."
The researchers are working with reconstructive surgeons to put
the method to the test by growing tissues to reimplant in the donor, said
Derby. "Applications include replacement for bones removed during cancer
surgery [and] working with burn victims to regenerate skin," he said. "Because
we use the patient's own cells we remove rejection problems with the implants."
The method could also be used to build experimental environments
for monitoring the responses of cells to external stimuli, and for building
cell-based biosensors, said Derby.
Previous research proved that cow cells can survive inkjet printing.
The University of Manchester researchers used human fibroblast and osteoblast
cells, which are the cells that form muscle and bone tissue. The cells are
forced at high pressure through a 30-micron wide nozzle. A micron is one
thousandth of a millimeter. "In an inkjet printer, the drops are generated
at extreme shear rates and at accelerations greater than 100g," said Derby.
Shear is opposite forces in parallel planes acting on an object. One g is
the force of gravity.
The researchers showed that human cells printed into wells containing
nutrients could multiply, spread out and form attachments to the surface
during a six day incubation period. The researchers used printer driving
voltages of 30 and 60 in order to ensure that the velocity was low enough
to avoid harming the cells.
The researchers also used an inkjet printer to form a tissue scaffold
and to seed the scaffold with cells, said Derby. Ordinarily, tissue scaffolds
are immersed in a liquid containing cells. With this setup, however the
cells only penetrate a few millimeters, he said. "Our technique allows the
seeding of scaffold interiors as they are built," he said.
In addition, the immersion approach can only seed scaffolds with
homogenous mixtures of cells, said Derby. The researchers' method provides
precise control of cell position, which allows the researchers to deposit
different types of cells in different locations, he said.
The researchers are working to allow the method to produce thicker
structures, said Derby. "We are currently limited to one or two layers of
cells and scaffold," he said.
Moving beyond this requires better temperature control of the substrates
and a method for providing nutrient supply during printing, said Derby.
The cell printing technique could be used practically in five to
ten years, said Derby.
Derby's research colleagues were Rachel Saunders and Julie Gough
of the University of Manchester in England, and Nuno Reis of the University
of Manchester and the Institute of Technology (IST) in Portugal. They presented
an previous version of the method at the Materials Research Society Fall
2003 meeting held in Boston December 1 through 5. The research was funded
by the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (ESPRC) in the
Timeline: 5-10 years
TRN Categories: Biotechnology; Applied Technology
Story Type: News
Related Elements: Technical paper, "Ink-Jet Printing of Human
Cells," Materials Research Society Fall 2003 meeting, Boston, December 1-5,
March 23/30, 2005
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