There are companies going after 3D bioprinting, like Organovo, and there are large research bodies and graduate universities making big breakthroughs with the technology. But, when a college sophomore like Tanner Carden at the University of Alabama starts bioprinting, you begin to feel that the bioprinting revolution isn’t as far away as previously thought.
Carden, with his collaborator Devon Bane, have developed a specialized extruder to 3D print lattices made of sugar that may be able to mimic blood vessels. The device, originally named Carbohydrate Anhydrous Rapid Manufacturing Aluminum Extruder, has taken on the more mouth friendly name CarmAl, referring to the confection that inspired the extruder. The plan is to 3D print a sugar solution into a specified shape, place the print into a suspension of biomatter and allowing cells to grow around the sugar structure. Then, a solvent can be applied to wash away the sugar, leaving a cellular mass with vessels. Carden describes the process, “We’re using the sugar molecules in a form of reverse 3D printing. In this process, we first make the structures we want and then we embed them into a cellular matrix.”
Such a process, like bioprinting research taking place in other parts of the world, would allow for 3D-printable biomatter assays for drug testing, in the short term. Unlike flat cellular samples, 3D-printed cells are able to survive longer because they more closely resemble cells in their natural environment and can be fed by vessel-supplied nutrients to maintain vitality. As Carden says, “It helps to prevent necrosis in your sample.” In the longer term, such a process could yield 3D-printed organs. Camden explains that, if they were to 3D print a structure used to grow liver cells, the byproduct “would actually have vascularization in it that is modelled on how a liver works.” … (Read more)