3D printing has been around for some time, and its importance in bioprinting is a significant breakthrough for the medical world. In particular, when it comes to 3D printing, tissue engineering is an area of importance. This is because it enables the recreation of cell tissue, which can be invaluable for drug validation. It also allows for a way to study the human body function in vitro. Previously, studies such as these have required animal or human tissues that aren’t always readily available.

3D bioprinting uses cells and biocompatible material to print living structures. This method requires a suitable scaffold such as synthetic peptide hydrogel and accurate printing using bioink. Layer-by layer, living structures are created which mimic the behaviour of natural living systems. This enables reproducible cell creation, more readily available testing materials and speedier testing processes at a lower cost. It also moves forward a commitment to reduce animal testing for many industries.

With that in mind, Manchester Biogel takes a look at the importance of bioprinting and the difference it can make.

Why is bioprinting important?

With a growing number of patients waiting for transplanted organs and others with long-term problems of post-transplant immunosuppression, the number of available organs cannot meet surgical demand currently. The alternative of 3D bioprinting is an exciting tool that is bridging this gap and providing a platform for medical advancement to identify cures, enable treatments and medical breakthroughs unlike any other.

3D bioprinting is widely becoming recognized as a viable and revolutionary way to regenerate organs, speed up significantly the testing of new drugs, and reduce associated costs involved for the pharmaceutical industry. Results also show significant improvements in the biological relevance to humans over previous animal testing methods.

Bioprinting will be able to use patients own cells to print organ patches, skin and bone grafts and complete organ replacement, making it one of the most valuable modern advancements in the medical history of recent times.

Drug discovery is another area where the ability to create efficient testing methods using synthetic peptide hydrogels to support cell testing will allow scientists, medical professionals and pharmaceutical giants greater flexibility within development and testing.

Challenges and solutions

Geometric accuracy is a critical component for successful 3D bioprinting, an element that requires the use of an optimal bioink. In addition, the bioink must remain mechanically stable post-printing and ensure long-term cell viability, so choosing the correct bioink is critical.

Synthetic peptide hydrogels offer this solution, providing the geometric accuracy required. PeptiGels have shear-thinning properties and can recover their structural integrity immediately after removing of the shear. Their self-assembling properties also mean they do not need physical or chemical post-processing. They are also highly adept at promoting proliferation, differentiation and cell attachment.

With that in mind, it is clear that this technology and medical innovation can bring immeasurable opportunities for medical science. Now that the challenge of finding an optimal bioink has been addressed, it has allowed medical professionals at The University of Manchester to print cell-laden constructions of mammary epithelial cells effectively. They conducted seven-day culture tests that indicated that the cells’ conditions had no detrimental effect and showed cell proliferation over the period.

The future

PeptiGels successfully demonstrated their effectiveness to support 3D printed matrices and tissues, thus cementing their place as a bioink for 3D bioprinting within the medical and pharmaceutical world. The future could well see PeptiGels involved in 3D bioprinting used for skin grafts, implants, bone grafts and even, eventually, fully 3D printed organs. This is incredibly exciting and will drive innovative progress forward within the medical industry.

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