3D Bioprinting: Lifelike Organ Tissue Models for Drug Screening

Bioengineers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed a 3D bioprinting method that integrates natural materials which produce lifelike organ tissue models.

The UCSD team used their method to create blood vessel networks capable of keeping a breast cancer tumor alive outside the body as well as a model of a vascularized human gut. The research, recently published in Advanced Healthcare Materials, aims to accelerate the production of human organ models to be studied for pharmaceutical drug screening.

“We want to make it easier for every day scientists—who may not have the specialization required for other 3D printing techniques—to make 3D models of whatever human tissues they’re studying,” said first author Michael Hu, a bioengineering Ph.D. student at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

3D printing a living blood vessel network

Last year, UCSD researchers additively manufactured a framework of functional blood vessels using a Digital Light Processing (DLP) method with hydrogel and encapsulated cells. Recognizing the importance of blood vessel networks in transporting blood, nutrients, and waste around the human body, UCSD engineers also developed 3D printed tissue that mimics the liver in terms of structure and function.

Now, UCSD scientists have developed created an “easy-to-use” technique to produce long‐term culturable ex vivo vascularized tissues. Using a commercial 3D printer, the researchers are able to print a scaffold out of a water-soluble material known as polyvinyl alcohol. Following this, a thick coating made of natural materials is poured over the scaffold which is then cured, solidified, and then flushed out the scaffold material inside to create hollow blood vessel channels.

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