Opening Up the Living Matter 3D Printing Frontier

Using living matter for 3D printing is an expanding field within the 3D printing world.  MIT researchers are working on using living cells that have been ‘programmed’ to become active components that print living material.

3D printing of living responsive devices

…researchers at MIT’s Soft Active Materials Laboratory, led by Professor Xuanhe Zhao, have demonstrated a new paradigm in 3D-printing by using genetically programmed living cells as active components to print living materials and devices.
As the team reports in Advanced Materials (“3D Printing of Living Responsive Materials and Devices”), the living cells are engineered to light up in response to a variety of stimuli. When mixed with a slurry of hydrogel and nutrients, the cells can be printed, layer by layer, to form three-dimensional, interactive structures and devices.
These printed large-scale (3 cm) high-resolution (30 µm) living materials accurately respond to signaling chemicals in a programmed manners. The design of the 3D-printed structures is guided by quantitative models accounting for cell responses and chemical diffusion in matrices.
“3D-printed architectures of programmed cells will not only mimic highly organized, time-evolving biological constructs, but also provide new functions as living responsive materials and devices,” Xinyue Liu, the paper’s first author, tells Nanowerk.
There is a growing body of research that exploits living cells as active components for instance for tissue-engineered soft robotics (read more: “Biohybrid robots built from living tissue start to take shape”) or a breathing lung-on-a-chip.

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