Blood vessels printed using using innovative technique dubbed ‘intravital 3D...
Blood vessels printed using using innovative technique dubbed ‘intravital 3D bioprinting’.
Source: University College London

Researchers successfully bioprint healthy new tissue

New muscle has successfully been created in mice using a minimally invasive technique dubbed ‘intravital 3D bioprinting’ by a team involving University College London scientists.

This new research could pave the way for minimally invasive surgical techniques for organ repair and reconstruction that could remove the need for transplantation in children with complex conditions.

For pioneering international study, researchers from the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health developed a photosensitive bio-gel that uses light treatment to ‘print’ healthy new tissue directly into specific tissues and organs, and sustain blood supply that would allow it to thrive.

The light-sensitive bio-gel acted as a type of bio-ink, effectively ‘printing’ 3D structures that supported the creation of muscle fibres in the muscle of live mice and without the need for open surgery.

Researchers loaded a liquid gel with cells carefully selected to suit the type of tissue being printed. The bio-gel was then injected into the area of interest in the body with a simple syringe. Once in place, the team directed a near infrared light at the area from outside the body. Polymers inside the bio-gel bonded together under this wavelength of light, solidifying 3D structures layer by layer and allowing the cells to reach the desired position. With support from the structures, the cells adapted and connected to their new surroundings to form new tissue.

Initially tested on the skin and brain of the mouse, the team’s technique – coined Intravital 3D Printing, or i3D Bioprinting – was also successfully carried out in the muscle of a mouse where it created new tissue without causing damage to surrounding organs or tissues.

Furthermore, it did not create any waste material inside the body and has the potential to carry healthy donor cells. This could be life-changing in cases where a child’s own cells aren’t suitable or available to help repair or reconstruct damaged or missing tissue.

Project lead Professor Nicola Elvassore (UCL GOS Institute of Child Health), whose research team spans the ICH, Italy and China, said: “Recent attempts at 3D bioprinting have required direct access to the tissue and space to manoeuvre the 3D bioprinting pen, to control how the tissue forms its shape and structure. That meant they focused on parts of the body that are easier to access, such as the skin. We’re really excited that our technique seems to be much more controllable in three dimensions, allowing us to accurately image in 3D the anatomical sites of interest and safely print new tissue in areas that aren’t easy to access without major surgery, like the brain.”

Recommended article

First-author Dr Anna Urciuolo, visiting research associate at the UCL GOS Institute of Child Health, said: “It was an exciting and challenging project, which required the fusion of emerging technologies in a multidisciplinary approach. By performing 3D bioprinting directly within the body of live animal model, we were able to deliver donor muscle stem cells in a spatially controlled manner, increasing their ability to develop new muscle tissue.”

The international team, which included researchers from Italy’s University of Padova and Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine, successfully ‘printed’ the gel within skin, muscle and brain tissues. Co-author Professor Paolo De Coppi, who is Nuffield Professor of Surgery at UCL GOS Institute of Child Health and a Consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), said: “This is an important step in repairing damaged tissue and offers the possibility of minimally invasive regeneration, which could change in the future the way we treat congenital malformations such as spina bifida and diaphragmatic hernia at GOSH. We still have plenty of work to do before we can safely use this approach with patients, but the pre-clinical findings are promising.”

Although still in its pre-clinical stage, this kind of tissue engineering research could lead to a new standard of care for patients with complex physical conditions, especially in the case of children with damaged organs.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

Sugar: Sweet way to 3D print blood vessels

Sugar: Sweet way to 3D print blood vessels

Scientists have developed a way of using laser-sintering of powdered sugars to produce highly detailed structures that mimick the body’s intricate, branching blood vessels in lab-grown tissues.

3D printing of biological tissue

3D printing of biological tissue

Scientists hope we will soon be using 3D-printed biologically functional tissue to replace irreparably damaged tissue in the body.

Lego-inspired 3D printed soft tissue bricks

Lego-inspired 3D printed soft tissue bricks

Researchers have developed a tiny, 3D-printed technology that can be assembled like Lego blocks and help repair broken bones and soft tissue.

Bioprinting tissues directly within the body

Bioprinting tissues directly within the body

Researchers take a step closer to 3D printing living tissues in patients as they develop a specially-formulated bio-ink designed for printing directly in the body.

Producing human tissue in space

Producing human tissue in space

The University of Zurich has sent adult human stem cells to the International Space Station to explore the production of human tissue in weightlessness.

Handheld 3D printers help to treat musculoskeletal injuries

Handheld 3D printers help to treat musculoskeletal injuries

Biomedical engineers developed a handheld 3D bioprinter that could revolutionize the way musculoskeletal surgical procedures are performed.

Transparent human organs allow 3D maps at the cellular level

Transparent human organs allow 3D maps at the cellular level

For the first time, researchers managed to make intact human organs transparent. Using microscopic imaging they could revealed underlying complex structures of the see-through organs at the cellular level.

Novel bioprinter shows potential to speed tissue engineering

Novel bioprinter shows potential to speed tissue engineering

Researchers have found a way to speed up tissue engineering for potential organ regeneration or replacement using a novel bioprinter.

A swifter way towards 3D printed organs

A swifter way towards 3D printed organs

A new technique called SWIFT (sacrificial writing into functional tissue) allows 3D printing of large, vascularized human organ building blocks.

Popular articles