3-D Printing Method Helps Generate Uniform 'Blocks' Of Embryonic Stem Cells

First Posted: Nov 04, 2015 10:45 AM EST

Through 3-D printing, scientists have developed uniform ‘blocks' of embryonic stem cells that are potentially capable of building micro-organs, according to recent findings.

Researchers one day hope that the technique might be used as the basic building blocks for others in performing experiments on tissue regeneration and/or drug screening studies.

During the study, researchers at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, and Drexel University, Philadelphia, used "extrusion-based 3-D printing to create grid-like 3-D structure to grow embryoid body that demonstrated cell viability and rapid self-renewal for 7 days, meanwhile maintaining pluripotency," according to a news release.

"Two other common methods of printing these cells are either two-dimensional (in a petri dish) or via the 'suspension' method (where a 'stalagmite' of cells is built up by material being dropped via gravity.)" said lead study author Wei Sun, in a statement. "However, these don't show the same cell uniformity and homogeneous proliferation.

"I think that we've produced a 3-D microenvironment which is much more like that found in vivo for growing embryoid body, which explains the higher levels of cell proliferation."

Next, researchers hope to determine how they can vary the size of the embryoid body by changing the printing and structural parameters. Furthermore, they hope to determine how changing the size would result in the manufacture of different cell types.

"In the longer term, we'd like to produce controlled heterogeneous embryonic bodies," concluded Wei Sun. "This would promote different cell types developing next to each other -- which would lead the way for growing micro-organs from scratch within the lab."

The study is published in the journal Biofabrication

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