I was fortunate enough to interview The University of Nottingham’s Asst Prof. Of Bioprinting and Biomaterials. Whilst on-site we had some fantastic discussions relating to the future applications and challenges in the Bioprinting/additive manufacturing arena.
What first inspired you to work with BioPrinters?
Before my current position I was a post-doc researcher and my research focused on studying the interactions between cells and manmade materials. I was looking at how material surface properties such as chemical or physical properties can affect the response of cells, particularly embryonic stem cells, I then heard about 3d printing. Then it was intriguing for me to try and use the 2d material properties research that I had done and apply it in a 3d context with BioPrinting.
How quickly do you think BioPrinting will be adopted in healthcare?
They are already a few cases whereby 3d printed ‘cell free’ medical devices and surgical planning tools, there were implants used in emergency cases (3d printed splint(porous tube) used in trachea surgery] as well as 3d printed metal implants. Some companies have approved 3d printed medical devices[OPM in Oxford]. However, this is not cell based BioPrinting this is 3d printing, BioPrinting is still in R+D phase globally.
Could you give us a bit of background into the other areas of BioPrinting/3d printing with medical applications that is currently being done at Nottingham university?
My group based in School of Pharmacy, UoN, focuses on bioprinting which includes cells in the printing processes. The printer in my group is a multi-head extrusion-based printer. UoN also has an additive manufacturing group in which many other 3D printing technologies are available. For example, I am collaborating with researchers from the additive manufacturing group on a project in which we are try to build stem cell niches in the eyes using two photon polymerisation, a 3D printing technique that has nanometer resolution.
Which set of ‘scaffolds’ will be most widely used? Hydrogels? Electromagnetic Levitation? Acoustic Levitation? Kenzan Needle Array?
Hydrogels are most commonly used. This is because they mimic certain characteristics of the extracellular matrix of human tissues. Many hydrogels are biodegradable so gradually they will be replaced by the extracellular matrix secreted by the cells.
How do you think the open source DIY BioPrinting communities will develop? Do you feel there could be any significant scientific contributions made?
I think it might be difficult due to the sophistication and complexity associated with bioprinting tissues. For example if we need a BioPrinters to print tissue replacement we may need multiple print heads to print multiple materials/cells. I’m not sure this can be achieved in the open source DIY market, sophisticated and bespoke BioPrinters would be required to fabricate human tissue replacements with complex hierarchical architectures.