Rapid Printing Moves Toward 3D-Printed Tissue, Organs

Published March 25, 2021

Ruogang Zhao, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, is at the forefront of a technological development that significantly speeds up the production of 3D-printed human tissue and organs.

“The technology we’ve developed is 10-50 times faster than the industry standard, and it works with large sample sizes that have been very difficult to achieve previously. ”
Associate professor of biomedical engineering
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This biotechnology could eventually save countless lives lost due to the shortage of donor organs.

Much Faster Than Industry Standard

Ruogang Zhao, PhD

The significance of the research is shown in a seven-second video — which is sped up from 19 minutes — that shows a machine dipping into a shallow vat of translucent yellow goo and pulling out what becomes a life-sized hand.

“The technology we’ve developed is 10-50 times faster than the industry standard, and it works with large sample sizes that have been very difficult to achieve previously,” says Zhao, the study’s co-lead author.

Fast and Accurate Printing

The work is described in a study published Feb. 15 in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

It centers on a 3D printing method called stereolithography and jelly-like materials known as hydrogels, which are used to create, among things, diapers, contact lenses and scaffolds in tissue engineering.

The latter application is particularly useful in 3D printing, and it’s something the research team spent a major part of its effort optimizing to achieve its incredibly fast and accurate 3D printing technique.

“Our method allows for the rapid printing of centimeter-sized hydrogel models. It significantly reduces part deformation and cellular injuries caused by the prolonged exposure to the environmental stresses you commonly see in conventional 3D printing methods,” says the study’s other co-lead author, Chi Zhou, PhD, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Researchers say the method is particularly suitable for printing cells with embedded blood vessel networks, a nascent technology expected to be a central part of the production of 3D-printed human tissue and organs.

Biomedical Engineering Well Represented

First authors of the study include former UB students Nanditha Anandakrishnan, PhD, now a postdoctoral researcher at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Hang Ye, PhD, now a research scientist at SprintRay Inc.

Zipeng Guo, a current doctoral candidate in Zhou’s lab, is also a first author.

Additional co-authors from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences include:

Other co-authors are:

  • Zhaowei Chen, PhD, and Depeng Wang, PhD, both researchers in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UB at the time of the research and now postdoctoral researchers at Duke University
  • Zhen Ma, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical & Chemical Engineering at Syracuse University
  • Nika Rajabian, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Joseph A. Spernyak, PhD, image research scientist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

The work was supported with funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health. UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School provided additional funding.