Much as a frame provides structural support for a house and the chassis provides strength and shape for a car, a team of Penn State engineers believe they have a way to create the structural framework for growing living tissue using an off-the-shelf 3-D printer.
“We are trying to make stem-cell-loaded hydrogels reinforced with fibers like the rebar in cement,” said Justin L. Brown, associate professor of biomedical engineering. “If we can lend some structure to the gel, we can grow living cells in defined patterns and eventually the fibers will dissolve and go away.”
The researchers’ report in a recent issue of the Journal of Advanced Healthcare Materials that their aim is to create a novel, low-cost and efficient method to fabricate high-resolution and repeatable 3-D polymer fiber patterns on nonconductive materials for tissue engineering with available hobbyist-grade 3-D printers. The method they use is a combination of 3-D printing and electrospinning, a method that uses electric charge to spin nanometer threads from either a polymer melt or solution.