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First sales confirmed for Otago tissue architects’ new 3D bio-printing technology

Thursday 13 December 2018 3:01pm

The gel-like consistency of bioink enables its printing into 3D structures which are stabalised by light-curing
The gel-like consistency of bioink enables its printing into 3D structures which are stabalised by light-curing.

In just its first week on the market an innovative bio-ink has already achieved sales, adding further excitement for the University of Otago team who’ve brought the cutting-edge technology from concept to reality.

Bio-inks are the substances used in bio-printing to make 3D structures containing living cells which can temporarily replace lost human tissue whilst encouraging the body’s own regenerative processes. Their gel-like consistency is both necessary for the extrusion process in printing as well as cell-friendly.

“What we’ve developed is an initiator system that uses visible light such as that from a standard mobile-phone torch to initiate polymerisation reactions,” says Otago inventor Dr Khoon Lim. Polymerisation transforms the extruded gels into stable structures for some weeks before they degrade and are absorbed by the body (if implanted in people or animals).

Lim is a polymer chemist and member of the Christchurch Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering (CReaTE) Group, which is led by Associate Professor Tim Woodfield.

Woodfield’s team tested their invention using varieties of hydrogels and cells, including stem cells. They found the visible light activation used with their new bio-ink is less toxic than traditional curing processes, resulting in greater cell viability when cells are printed. Cells printed in hydrogels cured with visible light showed new tissue growth, new blood vessel formation and mineralised bone two weeks after printing. Otago’s bio-ink offers exciting possibilities for clinical applications in the future.

Already researchers have begun accessing the new invention through Advanced BioMatrix, a Californian company which sells high quality and easy-to-use products for 3-dimensional applications.

Global bio-ink sales in 2016 were US$70 million, estimated to double by 2021, whilst the young clinical bio-printing market has a forecast value of over US$1 billion.