3D Printed Sugar Scaffolds Could Help Grow Organs, Then Dissolve Away
“The University of Illinois announced, in an article published Wednesday, that Ph.D. graduate Matthew Gelber and Rohit Bhargava, a professor of bioengineering and Director of the Cancer Center at Illinois, created a new kind of 3D printer capable of printing detailed biological structures out of sugar.
Yes, there are other 3D printers capable of working with sugar. However, unlike typical commercial printers, Bhargava’s uses isomalt – a sugar substitute derived from beets and commonly found in throat lozenges. Once melted down and printed, the sugar structures cool and solidify, creating a sturdy scaffold which makes the structures particularly useful in device manufacturing and in health-related fields such as biomedical engineering and cancer research.
“This is a great way to create shapes around which we can pattern soft materials or grow cells and tissue, then the scaffold dissolves away,” said Bhargava in TechXplore, “for example, one possible application is to grow tissue or study tumors in the lab. Cell cultures are usually done on flat dishes. That gives us some characteristics of the cells, but it’s not a very dynamic way to look at how a system actually functions in the body. In the body, there are well-defined shapes, and shape and function are very closely related.”…”
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