Optimise and gain new insights into the bioprinting process by performing direct 3D imaging of biomaterial flow within a bioprinter nozzle


Bioprinting is the application of 3D printing in biology and medicine, whereby living materials (biomaterials) are deposited layer-by-layer to produce a predefined structure. It is used in the pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetics industries to produce 3D printed tissue models. This allows in vitro experiments to be carried out which would otherwise require the use of biological tissues from organisms. The way in which biomaterials flow through a bioprinter nozzle plays a crucial role in determining the proportion of surviving cells (cell viability), as well as the ability of the printed material to maintain its desired structure (shape fidelity). Understanding this flow is therefore essential in order to optimise the bioprinting process. Current techniques to study and optimise flow include computer simulations and rheometry, providing no options for real-time feedback and limited insights into real flow behaviour. The Lasers for Science Group at STFC have developed a novel miniature light sheet fluorescence microscope to perform real-time 3D direct imaging of biomaterial flow within a bioprinter nozzle. Cells within the biomaterial are tracked as they move through the nozzle and a 3D velocity profile is calculated. This is used to determine the shear rate throughout the nozzle, which is directly related to cell viability and shape fidelity. This allows users to adjust biomaterial and bioprinting parameters to quickly achieve a suitable flow velocity, to optimise cell viability and shape fidelity, and to gain a greater understanding of their material. This technology has the potential to improve bioprinting process efficiency, saving time and resources for current bioprinting users. It also offers the chance to gain significant insights to further advance the value of 3D complex models. Proof of concept has been successfully demonstrated in a controlled laboratory setup, where a syringe was used in place of a bioprinter nozzle. Designs have been made to integrate the technology into a bioprinter, with a miniaturised version of a light sheet microscope. STFC is looking for a development partner to help make these designs a reality, with a view to integrating the technology into their products.

Key Benefits

Key features of the technology: • 3D time-lapse imaging • Low phototoxicity • Real-time imaging • Large field of view • Optical sectioning with wide-field resolution • Non-invasive • Observe realistic conditions Offering monitoring and optimisation of the bioprinting process : • Improve process efficiency • Increase rate of successful prints. • Improving ease of use • Reduce wasted time and resources • Novel insights into flow behaviour and cell health for development of novel bioinks and complex models. • May allow a new breakthrough in matching the tissue complexity and architecture to enable progress in complex models


Optimise the bioprinting process for the following applications: • Pharmaceutical: in vitro drug testing, models for research, drug screening and testing, reduced animal testing • Medical: Research, regenerative medicine, organ transplants, tissue repair, cosmetic • Cosmetics and consumer goods: Research, reduced animal testin

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