MIT uses fine-scale 3D bioprinting to grow highly uniform cell cultures with desired properties

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have used fine-scale 3D bioprinting to grow cells that are highly uniform in shape and size, and potentially with certain functions.

The system is developed by Filippos Tourlomousis, a postdoc at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, and six others at MIT and the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

While ordinary 3D printing produces filaments as fine as 150 microns (millionths of a meter), Tourlomousis says, it’s possible to get fibers down to widths of 10 microns by adding a strong electric field between the nozzle extruding the fiber and the stage on which the structure is being printed. The technique is called melt electrowriting.

“If you take cells and put them on a conventional 3D-printed surface, it’s like a 2-D surface to them,” he explains, because the cells themselves are so much smaller. But in a mesh-like structure printed using the electrowriting method, the structure is at the same size scale as the cells themselves, and so their sizes and shapes and the way they form adhesions to the material can be controlled by adjusting the porous microarchitecture of the printed lattice structure.

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