Making living ink
Working with cellsHydrogels are jelly-like materials widely used for tissue engineering due to their compatibility with cells. Many types of living cells can grow happily inside these hydrogels. However, hydrogels lack the viscosity and strength to hold their shape after printing.Recently, multiple-component composite hydrogels, such as alginate (from-seaweed) blended with gelatin (the foodstuff used in marshmallows), have been developed to improve the gel-like characteristics and enable high resolution printing of free-standing hydrogel constructs. These structures were created using extrusion printing, the ‘tooth-paste squeezing’ technique.In most current research, the living cells are not incorporated into the hydrogel inks during printing. The cells, such as chondrocytes for cartilage regeneration, can be seeded onto the printed structures in a Petri dish or bioreactor. The goal here is to create a ‘cartilage patch’ suitable for implantation to help heal a defect or injury. Integrating cells at precise locations during printing would have huge advantages over the post-seeding approach. Achieving this will require some clever ways to help the cells survive the printing process.
- What other materials can hydrogels be made out of?
Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts
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