Researchers at the University of British Columbia are working on a project that uses 3D printing techniques and gelatin-based biomaterials to create artificial organs in the laboratory.
Gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogel is a promising bioink for biofabrication applications, according to the findings by a research team made up of Zongie Wang, a research technician in mechanical engineering; Zhenlin Tian, PhD student in chemistry; Dr. Frederic Menard; and Dr. Keekyoung Kim, assistant professor, all from the UBC.
Kim, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, said GelMA is cost-effective and allows ease of synthesis and biocompatibility to allow cell adhesion.
“A big drawback of the conventional hydrogel is its thermal instability. Even small changes in temperature cause significant changes in its viscosity or thickness,” said Kim. “This makes it problematic for many room temperature biofabrication systems, which are compatible with only a narrow range of hydrogel viscosities and which must generate products that are as uniform as possible if they are to function properly.”
To determine which type of GelMa hydrogel was best suited for 3D organ printing, the researchers examined three different types of GelMa hydrogels – porcine skin, cold-water fish skin, and cold soluble gelatin.
The team found that the cold soluble GelMA could form healthy tissue scaffolds and enable cells to successfully grow. Cold soluble GelMa also had low viscosity and thermally stable at room temperature.
Being three times cheaper than porcine skin gelatin, cold-soluble gelatin is used primarily in culinary applications. It is used to make gels and foams that maintain the aromas of fruits and vegetables which would normally dissipate with the application of heat. The product can be applied in making cocktails and a host of modern dishes.
“The cold soluble GelMA showed a more reliable and stable droplet fabrication process,” according to the team’s findings which were published in Biofabrication. “Taken together, the cold soluble GelMA is a promising bio ink solution and may greatly benefit the research in biofabrication.”
“We hope this new bio-ink will help researchers create improved artificial organs and lead to the development of better drugs, tissue engineering, and regenerative therapies,” Kim said. “The next step is to investigate whether or not cold-soluble GelMA-based tissue scaffolds are can be used long-term both in the laboratory and in real-world transplants.”