A team of researchers from Heriot-Watt University is the first group to successfully 3D-print stem cells using a valve-based technique. The feat was achieved by overcoming the challenge of printing “the sensitive live cultures without damaging or killing them altogether.” The team’s hardware proved to be delicate enough to handle the fragile process of 3D-printing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells – while keeping its biological functions in tact. This a problem because an adult donor’s cells are more fragile compared to embryonic stem cells. The team at Heriot-Watt hopes that through this research they can begin working on more efficient and effective patient-specific solutions.
As research in this space continues to progress, the team hopes it will open up the possibility of 3D-printing liver, heart, and brain cells. Dr. Will Shu, from the University’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) says, “The ability to bioprint stem cells while either maintaining their pluripotency, their ability to develop into all types of cells in the body, or indeed directing their differentiation into specific cell types, will pave the way for producing organoids, or tissues on demand, from patient specific cells. These could then be used for animal-free drug development and personalized medicine.”