All human beings they start from a single cell which then divides to eventually form the embryo. Depending on the signals sent by their adjacent cells, these divided cells develop or differentiate into specific tissues or organs.
In regenerative medicine, controlling such differentiation in the laboratory is crucial, as stem cells could differentiate to allow organ growth in vitro and replace damaged adult cells.
A common approach scientists take when differentiating stem cells is through the use of chemical stimulators. Alternatively, inspired by the natural process of cell development, another method involves packaging stem cells into small cell aggregates, or spheres called embryoid bodies.
However, since scientists have not been able to control the necessary parameters, they have had to laboriously produce a large number of embryoid bodies and select specific ones with suitable characteristics.
To address this challenge, researchers from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) turned to additive manufacturing to control the differentiation of stem cells in embryoid bodies. Their study has been published in Bioprinting.
Taking a multidisciplinary approach by combining the research domains of 3D manufacturing and life sciences, various microscale physical devices with finely tuned geometries were 3D printed.
In the study, they successfully regulated the parameters for improve cardiomyocyte production, cells found in the heart.
According to the assistant principal investigator, Javier G. Fernandez, from SUTD:
The field of additive manufacturing is evolving at an unmatched rate. We are seeing levels of precision, speed and cost that were unthinkable just a few years ago. What we have shown is that 3D printing has now reached the point of geometric precision where it is able to control the outcome of stem cell differentiation. And in doing so, we are pushing regenerative medicine to advance further alongside the fast pace of the additive manufacturing industry.
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