Bioprinting is making gains all throughout the world of academia. Companies active in this field receive massive research funding and one of the most lucrative research fields is that of developing biodegradable materials. Researchers at MIT appear to have made a breakthrough on this front.
Researchers at the prestigious American university have recently developed a means for printing cellulose. This is a major breakthrough because cellulose is a major component of paper and wood. Sebastian Pattinson and A. John Hart co-authored the research. They have stated that the benefits of cellulose printing are that “it’s inexpensive, it’s biorenewable, biodegradable, and also very chemically versatile.”
While many researchers have previously attempted to print cellulose, they all faced major hurdles. Due to its structure, cellulose is not easy to heat without exasperating its base components. Upon heating, cellulose decomposes and thus becomes unusable. Another issue previous researchers ran into was that the material suffered from a high level of viscosity. As a result, extruders were not capable of excreting the material properly.
The researchers instead opted to use a material called cellulose acetate. It has a different chemical structure and dissolves in acetone. After dissolving it can then be extruded with ease. Cellulose acetate is widely available and comparable in price to plastic filaments. Another benefit is that printing it can be exponentially faster than traditional heating-based extruders. This is due to the fact that it uses acetone to dissolve the filament rather than traditional heating or melting.
The figure below shows tweezers made from the cellulose acetate:
Bioprinting has been making great strides outside of cellulose as well. The university of Wisconsin-Madison has recently developed a landmark method for developing implants. The researchers used decellularized husks of plants, such as parsley, vanilla, and orchids processed into 3D scaffolds seeded with human stem cells. As a result, they managed to develop an alternative to printing whole implants.
Other biomed researchers have been working on various methods of skin-grafting and regenerative tissue. We’ve previously covered various medical-biological revolutions made possible by 3D printing. Medical applications and other subtypes of bio-printing are very prominent in 3D printing circles. Every few days there are reports of new applications related to biological research or medicine.
3D printing presents an avenue for researcher to explore options for previously irreplaceable or un-reproducable parts. Many researchers have been printing blood vessels, heart cells and other parts too small for other methods of production.
Front Cover Picture Courtesy of MIT, Sebastian Pattinson and A. John Hart (authors of the Study).