Printing Plant Cells from Bioinks, Welcome to Green Bioprinting

A bioink designed to print human cells might just hold the key to also print 3D plant cell structures, says scientists from the University of Dresden.


Green bioprinting grows from tissue engineering

Computer-controlled 3D printing is now enabling the custom manufacture of many different products and structures, including tissue scaffolds that are designed to grow artificial tissues and organs in the lab. Researchers are busy exploring the performance of porous designs that contain different cells and growth factors, with the aim of repairing or replacing damaged parts of the body.

But the possibilities for this fast-evolving medical technique doesn’t stop there. Experts are also investigating whether the technology is compatible with plant cells, which could, for example,  help to nurture active agents for pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics.

Michael Gelinsky and his team at the Centre for Translational Bone, Joint and Soft Tissue Research at the University of Dresden in Germany have found that a bioink developed for printing human cells could be adapted to fabricate 3D plant cell cultures. “Having demonstrated bioprinting of human mesenchymal stroma cells with a novel and self-made alginate/methylcellulose bioink, we wanted to try other cell types to explore the applicability of this new blend,” explains Gelinsky.

Green bioprinting

Gelinsky and his team tested the concept by printing a cube-shaped mesh with a bioink loaded with basil cells. Reporting their results in the journal Biofabrication, the scientists observed that the majority of cells survived 3D plotting and cross-linking of the structure. What’s more, the embedded cells displayed high viability and metabolic activity during the investigated cultivation period of 20 days.

There are some fascinating applications to consider. The green bioprinted cubes could help developers to optimize the extraction of plant-based compounds, plus the work could come full circle and benefit the function of conventional scaffolds.

“As both plants and algae produce oxygen by photosynthesis, green bioprinting has the potential to keep mammalian cell cultures, or even tissues, alive,” says Gelinsky. “This feature could be of special interest for applications in space.”


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