Photo credit: Alain Herzog | 2019 EPFL
These days, 3D printers are dime a dozen, but for truly world-changing applications, researchers at the Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices (LAPD) in EPFL’s School of Engineering, working with colleagues from Utrecht University, have developed an ultra-rapid 3D bioprinter that can print living tissue in mere seconds. The technique is officially called volumetric bioprinting, and to create the tissue, researchers project a laser down a spinning tube filled with a stem-cell-laden hydrogel. It’s then shaped by focusing the energy from the light at specific locations, which then solidifies. Read more for a video and additional information.
After just a few seconds, a complex 3D shape appears, suspended in the gel, with the stem cells in the hydrogel largely unaffected by this process. Endothelial cells are then introduced to vascularize the tissue. They’ve demonstrated that it’s possible to create a tissue construct measuring several centimeters, a clinically useful size. A valve similar to a heart valve, meniscus and a complex-shaped part of the femur have been printed thus far.
“This is just the beginning. We believe that our method is inherently scalable towards mass fabrication and could be used to produce a wide range of cellular tissue models, not to mention medical devices and personalized implants,” said Christophe Moser, head of the LAPD.