Scientists from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University are developing new bio-ink materials to promote the development of 3D bioprinting functional bone tissue.
On May 27, 2020, Antarctic Bear learned from foreign media that the school’s associate professor Dr. Akhilesh K. Gaharwar created a 3D-printable biological ink that can be used as an anatomical functional organization. The new material developed by Gaharwar’s research team is called Nanoengineered Ionic-Covalent Entanglement (NICE) bioink, which is designed to overcome the current shortcomings of bio-ink in terms of structural stability. Talking about the benefits of NICE bio-ink, Gaharwar said: “The next milestone of 3D bio-printing is functional organization. Our research shows that the bio-ink developed in our laboratory can be used to engineer three-dimensional functional bone tissue.”
Bioprinted bone tissue
Gaharwar said a particularly useful application of this technique is in patient-specific bone transplantation, a surgical procedure that replaces missing bone to repair fractures. Because traditional treatments for bone defects and injuries are slow and expensive, replacing bone tissue with bioprinted tissue can create exciting treatments for patients. These can be used to treat defects and diseases such as arthritis, fractures, tooth infections and skull defects.
The latest progress in this area comes from Rice University and University of Maryland (UMD). Scientists at these institutions outlined a new proof of concept for 3D printing of artificial bone tissue to help repair injuries associated with arthritis and sports accidents.
At the end of 2019, the 3D bioprinting solution company of the Russian Biotechnology Research Laboratory 3D printed biological bone tissue under zero gravity on the International Space Station. Using its Organ.Aut 3D bioprinter, researchers in the laboratory hope to one day create real bone implants for astronauts to transplant in a long interstellar mission.
Nano-engineered biological link for stronger bone structure
During the bioprinting process, the biological material containing cells flows through the nozzle in liquid form and then solidifies immediately after deposition. This requires bio-ink as a cell carrier and structural component, while providing a cell-friendly microenvironment, it must also have a high degree of printability.
The Gaharwar team explained in the paper that the biobonds currently in use lack sufficient biocompatibility, printability, structural stability, and tissue-specific functions, which are required for preclinical and clinical application of bioprinting. “Because of the lack of bio-ink that can meet the needs of 3D printing and tissue engineering, the potential applications of bio-printing are limited. For example, the ideal bio-bond must be able to be extruded into a stable 3D structure, and at the same time during and after printing Protect cells and provide a suitable environment that can be reshaped into the target tissue. Unfortunately, traditional hydrogels are weak and have poor printability.”
In response to this problem, Gaharwar’s research team has developed a NICE bio-ink formula specifically for 3D bone bio-printing. NICE bio-ink is a combination of two technologies (non-reinforced and ionic covalent network). The combination of the two can provide effective reinforcement and make the bone structure stronger. “NICE Biolink allows precise control of printability, mechanical properties and degradation characteristics, enabling customized 3D printing of mechanical elasticity and cellular structure.”
Once the bioprinting process is complete, the NICE network containing cells will be cross-linked to form a stronger scaffold. Using this technology, Gaharwar and his team have been able to create full-scale, cell-friendly reconstructions of human body parts, including ears, blood vessels, cartilage, and joints.
In their tests, the researchers found that the closed cells began to deposit new proteins, which contained an extracellular matrix similar to cartilage, and then within three months, these cells would calcify and form mineralized bones. Of these 3D bioprinted scaffolds, 5% are made of calcium, which is similar to cancellous bone and is a typical spongy tissue network in vertebrae.
Using their bio-ink and research results, Gaharwar’s team plans to demonstrate the in vivo function of 3D bioprinted bone tissue.
The research report “Nanoengineered Osteoinductive Bioink for 3D Bioprinting Bone Tissue” was published in “ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces”. The authors are David Chimene, Logan Miller, Lauren M. Cross, Manish K. Jaiswal, Irtisha Singh and Akhilesh K. Gaharwar.