IU researchers pioneer use of 3D bioprinter

Researchers at Indiana University are among the first in the United States to have direct access to a 3D bioprinter using the innovative technology to create living tissue, currently for use in research laboratories, and eventually for use in humans.

The new machine uses a robot to place the tiny spheres of cells on the needles, carefully arranging them by cell type and location. The spheroids are assembled snugly against each other, enabling them to fuse together into the desired form of tissue. Scientists will be using the instrument to conduct research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine projects in fields ranging from vascular and musculoskeletal biology to dermatology, ophthalmology and cancer, said David B. Burr, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, professor of anatomy and cell biology at the IU School of Medicine and of biomedical engineering at IUPUI.

The Cyfuse printer, named Regenova, uses a small robot to place the tiny spheroids — each containing about 20,000 cells — onto the needle array. The types of cells, and their arrangements, vary depending on the tissue needed. Once assembled, the cells “know” how to do the rest, organizing themselves into the tissue needed. When ready, the tissue is removed from the spines.

Under the agreement, IU is leasing the USD 450,000 instrument while preparing a National Institutes of Health instrument grant proposal that would enable outright purchase of the machine.