Researchers from Cardiff University have made a groundbreaking discovery—they’ve developed a 3D bioprinter made entirely from Lego! Led by Dr Christopher Thomas, Dr Oliver Castell, and Dr Sion Coulman from Cardiff’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, this project aims to make 3D bioprinting more affordable and accessible.
So, what does this Lego bioprinter do? Well, it can precisely 3D print layers of cells using something called bio-ink. This bio-ink allows the bioprinter to replicate the structure of human tissue with high resolution. To create a complete skin model, the team is currently printing layers of skin cells using the Lego bioprinter. Isn’t that amazing?
But wait, there’s more! The Lego bioprinter can also add diseased cells to healthy skin models. This enables scientists to study how skin conditions develop and how healthy and diseased cells interact.
By simulating the progression of skin diseases, researchers can develop potential treatments. This exciting project was primarily funded by the British Skin Foundation PhD studentship grant. Matthew Patey, the CEO of the British Skin Foundation, expressed his delight at the fantastic results and hopes to see the research used to advance biomedical research in the future.
A cost-effective lego Bioprinter
One of the coolest things about this Lego bioprinter is that it’s affordable.
Lego is known for being both affordable and precise, and using it to build the bioprinter cost only £500! This is a significant cost saving compared to the expensive commercial bioprinting units that can cost tens of thousands of pounds. To make it even better, the team has released a free blueprint that explains how to recreate the Lego bioprinter. This way, other labs can build their bioprinters, expanding bioprinting capabilities to researchers who couldn’t otherwise afford such technology.
Dr Thomas explains that in a time of tight research funding, they are proud to offer an open-source, accessible, and affordable alternative to a much-needed piece of equipment. The team’s ultimate goal is for the Lego bioprinter to empower researchers to conduct groundbreaking research, leading to a better understanding of biology and improving human health.
Now, let’s dive into how this functional Lego 3D bioprinter was developed. It took a collaboration between engineers and biologists, working together to design, engineer, construct, and program the bioprinter. They used a combination of standard Lego bricks, Lego Mindstorms from Lego’s mechanical sub-brand, and a lab pump.
While Lego has been used to build regular 3D printers before,
3D bioprinters require even higher levels of precision, reliability, and stability to be useful in a lab setting.
The Cardiff University team claims that their Lego 3D bioprinter,
although still in its early stages, achieves the necessary precision to 3D print delicate biological materials.
How does this Lego 3d bioprinter work?
Here’s how it works: A nozzle ejects a gel-like substance called bio-ink, which is filled with cells, onto a dish. The printer’s movements are controlled by a mini Lego Mindstorms computer.
It moves the dish along the X and Y axes while simultaneously moving the nozzle along the Z axis, creating layers of cells that replicate the 3D structure of human tissue. It’s like building a complex Lego structure, but with cells!
Now, you might be wondering how 3D bioprinting is already being used for medical applications. Well, earlier this year, scientists at Swansea University made headlines when they announced that they were developing a 3D-printed vegan nose for use in artificial nose transplants. They used a bio-ink made of nanocellulose hydrogel and hyaluronic acid to 3D print an artificial cartilage scaffold. This scaffold was then bathed in a solution of the patient’s cartilage cells before being surgically implanted.
More applications for Bioprinting
In addition, a Canadian tissue engineering company called 3D BioFibR recently launched two new collagen fibre products—μCollaFibR and CollaFibR 3D scaffold—for 3D bioprinting. For applications involving tissue engineering and tissue culture, these items offer important advantages. They accurately recreate the natural appearance, structure, and function of collagen fibres, setting new standards in terms of strength, diameter, and quality.
Exciting things are happening in the world of 3D bioprinting, and the Lego bioprinter from Cardiff University is a game-changer. It opens up possibilities for more affordable and accessible research, leading to a better understanding of biology and improved healthcare for all.
Source: Cardiff ,youtube