Acquiring human tissue samples for biological research can be a challenging process. Obtaining tissue samples through ethical methods, such as organ donation and surgical procedures, can still be a difficult and limited process. Additionally, the specific size and type of tissue samples needed for research projects can be restricted. This has led scientists to look for new solutions to obtain these samples.
Building an Affordable Bioprinter Using Lego
To address the issue of limited human tissue samples, scientists have created an affordable and easily accessible 3D bioprinter using Lego. 3D bioprinting technology involves loading “bio-ink,” which contains living cells, into a cartridge which is then loaded into the bioprinter. The bioprinter prints the cell-laden bio-ink to form 3D structures that replicate the architecture of biological tissue. This technology allows researchers to create comparable models for studying healthy and diseased tissue.
However, bioprinters can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, which is unaffordable for many research teams. Thus, a team of engineers and biologists from Cardiff University decided to build their own affordable bioprinter using Lego.
The bioprinter costs only £500 (US$624) to build and achieves the required level of precision to produce delicate biological material. Using a mini Lego Mindstorms computer, the device moves the dish backwards and forwards and side to side while moving the nozzle up and down mechanically as it extrudes the gel full of cells to build up layers of cells to replicate the 3D structure of human tissue.
The bioprinter is now being used to create layers of skin cells, working towards a full-scale skin model. It can also be modified by using different types of nozzles to print different types of cells, building a variety of complexities into the tissue samples. By offering an open-source, accessible, and affordable alternative to a vital piece of equipment, the scientists hope that their Lego bioprinter will enable researchers to conduct groundbreaking research that will ultimately lead to a better understanding of biology and further improve human health.
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