Nov 8, 2016 4:05:31 AM

UWA Envisions the Future; 3D Bioprinting Directly into Wounds

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Guest post by Hayley Glover, University of Western Australia.

With all the hype of 3D printed organs, replacement joints and blood vessels it can be quite overwhelming for a novice in the 3D bioprinting field. Where do you start and how do you get your head around the different materials, potential applications and the jargon used throughout literature?

This year I made it through this challenging yet rewarding process, through completing my final year thesis as a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Western Australia. Instead of focusing on the broad end goals of bioprinting and becoming discouraged, I looked into optimizing a material that had already shown promise in literature, but still had sufficient gaps that needed to be filled. But first of all, what was my materials potential application?

Imagine that you are cooking at home on the stove and you accidentally pour boiling liquid down the side of your body. You race to the nearest hospital where a nurse positions you onto a patient bed. A 3D scanner assesses the contours and dimensions of the damaged tissue and sends this information to a 3D bioprinter, which then disperses a biomaterial containing antibiotics, growth factors, mineral supplements, and cells directly into the wound. This biomaterial is termed a delivery vehicle, which enhances cell viability and slows drug release. Optimization could potentially lead to the development of complex drug profiles that are patient specific and prolong active release.

The hydrogel delivery vehicle I chose for this application was a two-polymer blend of hyaluronic acid and methylcellulose (HAMC). I varied the concentration (wt. %) of each constituting polymer as well as the pH, to see the effects on gelation time, yield-stress, swelling and you guessed it, printability using the BioBots 3D bioprinter.

Although this project was definitely a learning curve for me, looking back now I see it as a highly rewarding experience. There is so much potential for this fast-growing field.

Let me know if you were new to bioprinting and how you found the whole experience. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?