Tiny robots help improve 3D tissue printing

Researcher in the US have created a tiny magnetically controlled robot that could be used to 3D print living tissue more accurately.

The team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Carnegie Mellon University used the micro-robot to build tissue-like structures from individual drops of hydrogel containing living cells by placing them one at a time in a complex pattern. 

This could enable cells to be placed more precisely within artificially constructed tissue, which would influence how it functioned, the researchers said.

‘Our work will revolutionise three-dimensional precise assembly of complex and heterogeneous tissue engineering building blocks and serve to improve complexity and understanding of tissue engineering systems,’ said Prof Metin Sitti, head of CMU’s NanoRobotics Lab.

The researchers also demonstrated that micro-robotic construction of cell-encapsulating hydrogels, which are made from polymer chains dispersed in water and are already used as scaffolds in tissue engineering, didn’t affect the health or reproduction of the cells.

By combining numerous micro-robots together, the researchers believe they could create a bioprinter to generate tissue and other complex materials in the laboratory environment.

‘Compared with earlier techniques, this technology enables true control over bottom-up tissue engineering,’ said Savas Tasoglu, one of the BWH researchers who have published their work with the micro robot in the journal Nature Communications.