There’s no denying the impact 3D printing could have on the medical world. From printing artificial heart pumps to printing tissues within the body, there are many potential applications of this groundbreaking technology. With that said, obstacles remain. One key challenge remains when it comes to 3D-printed body parts: getting oxygen to the cells in the printed tissue.
But that could soon change after scientists unveiled a new type of “bio-ink”. According to New Atlas, the basic idea with bio-printed organs is that a few days after they’ve been implanted into the body, blood vessels from the surrounding natural tissue will grow into them. These will permanently supply the cells in the implant with oxygen, allowing them to thrive and even reproduce.
Unfortunately, though, the blood vessels sometimes just don’t grow fast enough. And while some scientists are trying to create bio-printed tissue with vessels already present within it, an international group of scientists is taking another approach by focusing on the bio-ink itself.
What they’ve developed is a hydrogel that combines calcium peroxide (CPO) with a substance known as gelatin methacrylol. When mixed with water, CPO produces oxygen. A simple mixture of it and water, however, it would lack the structure needed for bio-printing.
That’s where the gelatin methacrylol comes in. Its pH and viscosity are optimized to support the CPO, allowing it to generate oxygen on a sustained basis, while also offering the physical matrix necessary for the printing of implants.
That might be a bit too much scientific jargon, but we can tell you that from lab tests, the new hydrogel is proving capable of keeping both muscle and cardiac cells oxygenated for the amount of time that it would take blood vessels to grow in and take over the task. For a deeper dive into the research, have a look here at the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.