Researchers at the Lausanne Polytechnic School and the Utrecht University Medical Center (LAPD) developed a method that allows sculpting hydrogel shapes with stem cells in seconds, and then vascularizing the resulting tissue by adding endothelial cells. According to the team, this volumetric bioprinting technique can "change the field of tissue engineering".
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells with the potential to become one of 200 cell types in the body, including blood, muscle and heart cells, for example. Admittedly, there is already a conventional bioprinting technique that replicates replicas of this type of cell, but the method explained in a report published in August in the journal Advanced Materials proves to be much faster.
While conventional bioprinting is slower as it involves a layer-by-layer process, the technique now developed is "fast and offers greater design freedom without compromising cell viability," explains Damien Loterie, a researcher at LAPD. By doing so, the team ensures that the technique will change the way cellular engineering specialists work, allowing them to create a new kind of functional and personalized organs.
The procedure is to create the tissue by projecting a laser onto a spinning tube filled with a stem cell hydrogel. The fabric is then shaped by concentrating light energy at specific locations, which then solidify. And after how much can you see the end result? After a few seconds a 3D shape is suspended in the gel, and then endothelial cells are introduced to vascularize the tissue.
With this research, the authors have shown that it is possible to achieve a tissue construction of several centimeters, which is already clinically useful. In several tests the team built a heart valve, a meniscus and a complex part of the femur and were also able to construct interconnected structures.