BiotINK: Now you can print tissue with your own 3D printer
Ignacio Tovar is a founding partner of Steed, a small innovation consultancy based in Mexico City and organizer of the futurologi event series. He is currently studying a MSc in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management at Imperial College, London. Ignacio is interested in the development of social, economic, design and technology trends as they shape the future.
Researchers at the Germany’s Technical University of Munich presented their biotINK project at the International Genetically Engineered Machine 2016 Giant Jamboree in Boston on October 29. BiotINK aims to make printing complex 3D cellular structures cheaper, easier and faster by using a new technique that creates inks using biotin (vitamin B7) and streptavidin, a protein harvested from bacteria.
The Issue with Tissue
The traditional process for growing artificial tissue relies on scaffolding, since this technique allows cells to be held in place while they develop. In this process the 3D printed grid like structure, made of PLA normally, is seeded with organic cells that slowly grow throughout all the structure filling all the internal spaces. As the organic cells multiply, eventually the scaffold degrades or is removed, leaving behind only the organic tissue.
There have been recent advances this bioprinting method, such as a new proposal for bioreactors from Greek scientists. In any case, scaffolding has its limitations; it is costly, the cell maturation process takes a long time and has certain size limitations.
Part of the research team: Julian Hofmann, Christoph Gruber, Luisa Krumwiede and Javier Luna Mazari. Image via: Technical University of Munich
Team Munich’s Idea
The researchers, lead by Dr. Arne Skerra, propose a new method using desktop 3D printers to print organic 3D cellular structures. The method arranges two different type of components (genetically engineered cells and proteins) into a structure that quickly polymerizes creating a rigid structure. This two components are linked by a very strong bonding reaction, also found in nature, called the biotin-streptavidin interaction.
The printer in action. Image via: Technical University of Munich
Bioprinting, one step closer
Bioprinting is an sector of 3D printing that has many potential applications in the health research field. Among them, testing and experimentation for medical studies is a particular field where tissue engineering is crucial, for example as reported by 3DPI the latest advancements from a team at Harvard. This particular application for tissue engineering allows a faster understanding of human diseases, improving the rate at which scientists develop potential cures.
Perhaps a key to the potential success of this project is their openness to the bioprinter community through their website, in which they have documented publicly their project and share instructions to turn your normal 3D printer into a bioprinter. This invitation to collaborate celebrate the internet’s main purpose of being an open communication space, as explored at MozFest last weekend.
Featured image via the Technical University of Munich, by Andreas Heddergott.
3D printing or Additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).
A 3D printer is a limited type of industrial robot that is capable of carrying out an additive process under computer control.
While 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it was not until the early 2010s that the printers became widely available commercially. The first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. Since the start of the 21st century there has been a large growth in the sales of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially. According to Wohlers Associates, a consultancy, the market for 3D printers and services was worth $2.2 billion worldwide in 2012, up 29% from 2011.[
The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction (AEC), industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, civil engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields. One study has found that open source 3D printing could become a mass market item because domestic 3D printers can offset their capital costs by enabling consumers to avoid costs associated with purchasing common household objects.
3D Printable Models
3D printable models may be created with a computer aided design package or via 3D scanner. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is a process of analyzing and collecting data of real object; its shape and appearance and builds digital, three dimensional models.