The research is a first from the university to create structure that are soft enough to replicate the mechanical properties of organs like the brain and lungs. The 3D printing technique could create replica organs and assist with tissue regeneration.
Structure and softness of body tissues can be difficult to match, but when they are matched, the structures could be used in medical procedures to form scaffolds that can be a template for tissue regeneration. Damaged tissues would be bolstered to regrow, allowing the body to heal without issues like rejection from the body.
The 3D-printed structures were seeded with dermal fibroblast cells that generate connective tissue in the skin. The researchers found that were was successful attachment and survival.
Creating whole body parts and whole organs could help scientists and researchers experiment without the need for live subjects. It could also help train surgeons.
The researchers suggest that the technique they developed would create super-soft scaffolds that are similar in consistency to soft tissues in the body and it shows potential in seeding neuronal cells. They also hope that the research could expand around the growth of stem cells.
“At the moment we have created structures a few centimeters in size, but ideally we’d like to create a replica of a whole organ using this technique,” Zhengchu Tan, one of the researchers from the department of mechanical engineering at Imperial, said in a press release.
The technique the researchers used uses dry ice to quickly cool a hydrogel ink and it is deposited from a 3D printer. It gets thawed and then the remaining gel that formed is soft as body tissues and is strong enough to hold its own weight.
“Cryogenics is the novel aspect of this technology – it uses the phase change between liquid and solid to trigger polymerisation and create super soft objects that can hold their shape. This means that the technology has a wide variety of possible uses,” Antonio Elia Forte, one of the researchers, said.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.