German students hack Ultimaker 2+3D Printer and develop special 3D printable bio-ink.Students from the Technical University of Munich have hacked an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer and developed a special 3D printable bio-ink called “biotINK.” The students have entered their project into the iGEM challenge, an annual biology contest.
3D bioprinting is one of today’s most exciting areas of scientific research. Using special 3D printers, experts have been able to fabricate precisely shaped tissue from real human cells, and could soon be able to make 3D printed human organs for transplantation and other uses. To print cells, however, extra substances are needed. Cells themselves do not have the printer-friendly material properties of, say, PLA, so cannot simply be extruded from a nozzle. Instead, scientists tend to use something called a bio-ink, a substance with which cells can be mixed in order to make them printable.
A group of students from Germany’s Technical University of Munich has developed its own unique bio-ink for 3D bioprinting, entering their research into the iGEM challenge, an annual contest for biologists, biochemists, and bioengineers. The students’ bio-ink contains biotin, commonly known as vitamin B7, as well as streptavidin, a protein with a high affinity for biotin that works like a glue. Because the bio-ink contains biotin, the team decided to call it “biotINK.”
The researchers believe that their new 3D bioprinting ink eliminates some of the problems associated with other bioprinting techniques, which typically require temporary scaffolds to support the organic structures. By using biotin and streptavidin, the researchers’ biotINK functions as a kind of “molecular superglue,” binding the biotin to the receptors and allowing scientists to precisely 3D print cells while locking them in position.
“All of these things cross-link with each other because streptavidin has binding sites for biotin, and is capable of binding biotin to our receptor,” said team member Luisa Krumwiede. “They should then polymerize and form a 3D structure.”