The technique integrates the microscopic and macroscopic control of printing with the molecular and nano-scale control of self-assembly. This offers the possibility to recreate, in vitro, complex biological scenarios like the niches where cancer grows and the complex environments where the immune cells interact with other cells. This will enable scientists to study a variety of diseases and develop new drugs.
The research, Hydrodynamically Guided Hierarchical Self-Assembly of Peptide–Protein Bioinks, has been published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
Explaining the project, Alfonso said: “This research aims to integrate the benefits of self-assembly (the concept of building structures by assembling molecules like Lego pieces) with additive manufacturing - such as 3D-Printing - and the result is the capacity to print complex structures with cells embedded in an ink that recreates their native environment.”
This type of bioprinting opens up the possibility to build complex structures using the key components (molecules and cells) of the native tissue or body part.
“The technique combines printing, droplet impact, and molecular self-assembly and is able to fabricate complex macroscopic structures using cells and different biomolecules normally found in natural tissues. The precise structures were obtained by 'guiding' the assembly of the molecules by tailoring the hydrodynamics of droplet interactions with target fluids”, he added.
In addition, because of the precision and control of the chemical and physical properties of the fabricated structures, the method can also be used to micro-manufacture constructs that mimic body parts or tissues for tissue engineering or regenerative medicine.
The work is the result of collaboration between researchers at Queen Mary University of London, Clara Hedegaard, Estelle Collin, Carlos Redondo-Gómez, Rafael Castrejón-Pita, Alvaro Mata; Nanyang Technological University, Luong Nguyen, Kee Woei Ng; and Alfonso Castrejón-Pita at the University of Oxford.