June 16, 2016

At the Cutting Edge of 3D Bioprinting: WBC 2016 Round Up Part II

A guest blog post by RoosterBio Travel Award winner, Ian Kinstlinger.

Presenting on Open-source Selective Laser 
Sintering at WBC2016!
Since 1980, the international community of biomaterials scientists and engineers has convened every four years to discuss the cutting edge of biomaterials research. This year’s 10th World Biomaterials Congress (WBC) brought us to lovely Montreal, Canada for a stimulating week of workshops, talks, posters, and social activities. I was honored to present my work from the Miller Lab at Rice University in both a podium talk and a poster session.

Our lab is broadly interested in developing strategies to construct vascular networks within engineered tissues. In my research, I have developed a platform technology which uses 3D printed carbohydrates as templates around which cells and biomaterials can be assembled. Dissolving the sugar away gives you an engineered tissue with perfusable channels; we believe that these constructs will be useful for understanding the mass transport requirements and emergent properties of engineered living tissue.

An overview of one method our lab has introduced to create 
embedded vascular networks in biomaterials.
I used my poster to spread the word about our lab’s Open-source Selective Laser Sintering technology and my podium talk to describe how we’ve adapted this system to perform laser-based 3D printing of carbohydrate materials. I was thrilled to have a large audience for my talk, followed by several insightful questions. My poster also received a steady stream of visitors, many of whom are involved in the open-source hardware community and were eager to talk about hardware hacking for biomaterials. That work was actually published earlier this year – and RoosterBio hMSCs were absolutely central. Their high quality and robust differentiation response made characterizing biocompatibility of materials quite straightforward.

A couple of key presentations stood out at WBC 2016:

Nano- and Micro-fabricated Hydrogels for Regenerative Engineering
  • Dr. Ali Khademhosseini, Khademhosseini Lab, Harvard University
  •  Dr. Khademhosseini gave an illuminating keynote on the many angles from which his lab is using bioprinting technologies to fabricate functional biological structures. He is also emerging as a leader in the field of integrated organ-on-chip drug screening platforms.

Injection of Dual-Crosslinking Hydrogels to Limit Infarct Induced Left Ventricular Remodeling
  • Dr. Jason Burdick, Polymeric Biomaterials Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania
  •  The Burdick lab has developed an innovative class of supramolecular biomaterials specifically targeted for 3D printing applications. The gels are shear-thinning due to their non-covalent crosslinks, and thus are amenable to extrusion printing. These materials are also useful as injectables for reducing left ventricular remodeling after heart attack.

Photoreversible patterning of hydrogel biomaterials with site-specifically-modified proteins
  • Dr. Cole DeForest,  DeForest Research Group, University of Washington
  •  Much like our lab is interested in patterning biomaterial architecture via 3D printing, the DeForest group is patterning functional proteins into materials through some very clever photochemistries. Their techniques give them spatiotemporal control over the incorporation of various full proteins into synthetic hydrogels.

It was tremendously exciting to see so many investigators working on 3D printing of biomaterials. I counted at least seven sessions devoted to the topic and was also impressed by the low-cost printers and inks now hitting the market, including RoosterBio’s new ready-to-print hMSC products. The diverse hardware and materials that have been introduced in the past few years are already transforming the field! It will be very interesting to see in the coming years whether these new techniques give way to novel insights into cell and tissue function in vitro, as many groups are currently promising.

It is also not yet clear whether the same groups who are mastering the materials and fabrication technology have the resources and expertise to analyze complex biological phenomena in their printed structures. A greater level of collaboration between biologists and materials/fabrication engineers may be necessary in the future to make progress in this area. I am going to end with shameless plug for my recent review article in Lab on a Chip which discusses 3D printing approaches for fabricating vascular networks and addresses the need for increased communication between biologists and materials scientists.

WBC 2016 was an incredible conference in which I got to present my work, learn about key advances in biomaterials, meet leaders in the field, and explore Montreal. Thanks so much to RoosterBio for providing the highest quality hMSCs and for their support of my work through a travel grant! 

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