How to Feed Engineered Organs using a 3D Printed Sugar Network
Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD
“Tissue engineers have long dreamed of building an organ in a dish. But without vessels running through the tissue, cells in the centre starve and suffocate.
Now, US researchers can build vessels into a cell-containing gel – the beginnings of a thick tissue. Scientists form the gel around a lattice of printed sugar fibers. The fibers dissolve after the gel sets, leaving a network of channels that carry nutrients like blood vessels.
For the past decade, tissue engineers have looked for ways to build a 3D tissue in such a way that vessels are immediately available to feed growing cells. One way to create these vessels uses a tiny silicon template to pattern grooves in a sheet of cell-containing gel. Covering these cut outs with another sheet of engineered tissue creates enclosed channels. While these sheets can be layered to build up a tissue, the vessels only extend through the tissue in two dimensions, unlike the 3D network in our bodies.
Scientists can also print tissues using an inkjet printer to layer drops of cellular ink, leaving gaps for vessels. But they have to optimise the print settings for each cell type and supporting matrix.”