Researchers create bio-ink for 3D printing live tissues from stem cells

  • Nimish Sany
  • 25 June , 2016

A research team from the University of Bristol in UK has successfully formulated and devised a new class of bio-ink which allows you to print out live tissues using stem cells!

The bio-ink used formulated by the researchers is mainly comprised of two components:

i.A natural polymer derived from sea weed

ii.A sacrificial synthetic polymer for the convenience of 3D printing

“Designing the new bio-ink was extremely challenging. You need a material that is printable, strong enough to maintain its shape when immersed in nutrients and that is not harmful to the cells. We managed to do this,” says Adam Perriman, head of the research team from School of cellular and molecular medicine.

artist's imagination of the bio-ink in use

While the seaweed polymer helps the printed cells to maintain structural rigidity with the addition of cell nutrients, the synthetic polymer lets the bio-ink let it change its phase from liquid to a gel-like solid with rise in temperature.

“The special bio-ink formulation was extruded from a retrofitted bench top 3D printer, as a liquid that transformed to a gel at 37 degrees Celsius, which allowed construction of complex living 3D architectures,” Perriman remarked.

The study was published in Advanced Healthcare Materials, a leading journal in the field of emerging biomedical equipments and technologies. The scope of the bio-ink is vast in organ and tissue replacement procedures and treatment. The bio-ink can be 3D printed using a person’s stem cells so the 3D printed tissue will adapt to his/her body. The study seems promising especially in hip, knee or joint surgeries where a surgical bone or a cartilage needs to be replaced or implanted.

The team has 3D printed a full-size tracheal cartilage ring with the all new bio-ink. Stem cells were converted to osteoblasts which secrete the substance with which bone cells are made of. This let the researchers print out 3D tissue and cartilage structures.

“What was really astonishing for us was when the cell nutrients were introduced, the synthetic polymer was completely expelled from the 3D structure, leaving only the stem cells and the natural seaweed polymer,” Perriman noted

This led to the formation of tiny voids in the cellular structure which allowed the entry of nutrients to the cell structure.


Nimish Sany: I bleed my thoughts on paper. And if I cant find a paper, blogs serve the purpose just fine.

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