A soft robotic arm that can print directly onto organs and tissues inside the human body has been created by engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW),
expanding the potential for 3D bioprinting.
In recent years,
the use of 3D printing technology to produce biomaterials containing living cells (bio-inks) and medications has emerged to treat a variety of conditions by producing, for instance,
cardiac or gastrointestinal patches.
Currently, research and the creation of new medications are the main uses of bioprinting.
Large-scale 3D printing is necessary to produce constructs that must be surgically implanted into the body, which entails risks like infection and damage to surrounding tissue.
Biomaterials can be harmed by manual handling during the implantation process because they are typically soft, brittle structures.
The mismatch between a 3D construct and the tissue surface
it is implanted onto is another frequent issue when using externally created 3D constructs.
A potential remedy is the direct implantation of biomaterials into target tissues.
A tiny, flexible soft robotic arm that can be inserted into the body like an endoscope and deliver biomaterials directly to the surface of organs and tissues has been created by UNSW engineers.
The F3DB proof-of-concept device has a long, flexible robotic arm with a highly mobile swivel head that “prints” the bio-ink through a tiny, multidirectional nozzle.
It is externally controlled.
According to Dr Thanh Ngo Do,
the corresponding author of the study,
“Existing 3D bioprinting techniques require biomaterials to be made outside the body
and implanting that into a person would typically require large open-field surgery,
which increases infection risks.
A unique 3d bioprinter
Do explained that thanks to the flexible 3D bioprinter,
biomaterials can be directly and minimally invasively delivered into the target tissue or organs.
Our prototype’s flexible body enables 3D printing of multilayered biomaterials in a variety of sizes and shapes through confined and challenging spaces.
The F3DB can be directed to another location to start printing again after finishing printing in one area. This indicates that the device can print biomaterials over large surfaces, such as the entire surface of organs like the colon, stomach, heart, and bladder, which is not possible with current bioprinting technology.
The engineers used chocolate, composite gel, and biomaterials to precisely print various shapes as they tested the F3DB outside the body on flat and curved surfaces,
including inside an artificial colon and on the surface of a pig’s kidney.
Viable cells after 3d printing
Importantly, they discovered that the printing process had no effect on the cells and that most cells continued to function after printing.
In addition to printing biomaterials,
the apparatus performs standard endoscopic procedures like tissue dissection,
marking lesions, and cleaning structures with water jets.
Mai Thanh Thai, the study’s lead author,
said that the developed F3DB was created as an all-in-one endoscopic tool that avoided the use of changeable tools,
which are typically connected to longer procedure times and infection risks.
There aren’t any commercially available tools that can print on internal organs and tissues yet.
According to the F3DB’s development team,
it should take five to seven years for the device to be ready for professional use.
Source: Advanced Science