Sourcing human tissue samples for organic investigations isn’t all the time straightforward. Whereas they’re ethically obtained by means of organ donation or from tissue that’s eliminated throughout surgical procedures, scientists are discovering them more and more tough to pay money for.
And it’s not simply because there’s a restricted provide of human tissue samples. There’s additionally restricted availability of the particular dimension and sort of tissue samples wanted for the various initiatives going down at any given time. That’s why we determined to handle the difficulty by constructing our personal low-cost, simply accessible printer able to creating human tissue samples utilizing one of many world’s hottest toys.
The emergence of 3D bioprinting has supplied a possible answer to the issue in sourcing tissue samples. This expertise includes loading “bio-ink”, which comprises residing cells, right into a cartridge. That, in flip, is then loaded into the bioprinter. As soon as programmed, the bioprinter prints the cell-laden bio-ink to type 3D buildings that purpose to copy the advanced formation of organic tissue.
In contrast to two-dimensional cell cultures grown on plates, which most of us nonetheless depend on for giant components of our analysis, bioprinters allow scientists to develop cells in three dimensions. And that higher replicates the intricate structure of human biology. In different phrases, bioprinting expertise permits researchers to make extra comparable fashions for learning wholesome and diseased tissue.
The issue is that these machines come at an eye-wateringly excessive price of some tens, even lots of, of hundreds of kilos. Few analysis groups, together with ours, can stretch their budgets to cowl that form of expenditure, irrespective of how groundbreaking the expertise guarantees to be.
That’s what led to us asking ourselves whether or not we may construct our personal inexpensive 3D bioprinter. The reply was “sure” and we determined to take action utilizing Lego.
Anybody who’s ever tinkered with it’s going to know that not solely is Lego extraordinarily low cost and versatile, nevertheless it’s additionally manufactured to very excessive precision with standardised components which might be globally accessible.
We additionally knew Lego had already been used to create conventional 3D printers. However what remained unsure was whether or not we may take the fundamental notion of a Lego 3D printer – which prints strong 3D buildings from plastic – and engineer one that might print gentle organic materials.
The output would have to be exact, dependable and secure for it to be of any use in our lab.
We started working on our personal inexpensive, high-spec bioprinter in a nook of our Cardiff lab utilizing normal Lego bricks, their mechanical sub-brand, Lego Mindstorms and a lab pump, which is a tool generally present in analysis labs. A multidisciplinary staff of engineers and biologists labored collectively to design, engineer, assemble and program our bioprinter.
Nonetheless in its infancy, our bioprinter, which price £500 to construct, achieves the required degree of precision to provide delicate organic materials. The way in which it does that is remarkably easy.
A nozzle ejects a gel-like substance, which is filled with cells, onto a dish. On the coronary heart of the system is a mini Lego Mindstorms pc. This system strikes the dish backwards and forwards and facet to facet whereas transferring the nozzle up and down mechanically because it extrudes the gel stuffed with cells. These programmable actions construct up layers of the cells to copy the 3D construction of human tissue, layer by layer.
Our bioprinter is now getting used to create layers of pores and skin cells, working in direction of a full-scale pores and skin mannequin. It can be modified by utilizing various kinds of nozzles to print various kinds of cells, constructing quite a lot of complexities into the tissue samples. It’s an thrilling alternative to mimic each wholesome and diseased pores and skin, to have a look at current remedies and to design new therapies to deal with numerous pores and skin ailments.
The long run
Our bioprinter couldn’t solely present us with an correct consultant mannequin of human pores and skin, it is also used so as to add diseased cells to the wholesome fashions we produce. This is able to allow us to check how pores and skin situations develop and the way wholesome and diseased cells work together. It could additionally allow us to see how pores and skin ailments progress and the way potential remedies could be developed.
Now we have supplied particulars on how we constructed our Lego 3D bioprinter, giving clear directions on easy methods to reconstruct this system in any lab, anyplace on the planet. At a time when analysis funding is so squeezed, we’re providing an open supply, accessible and inexpensive different to an important piece of apparatus that’s past most researchers’ budgets.
Fairly merely, we wish our Lego bioprinter to allow researchers to conduct groundbreaking analysis as a result of that can in the end result in a greater understanding of biology and additional enhance human well being.