Recent advances in cell engineering combined with additive manufacturing have created new possibilities in bioprinting engineered living materials. However, the balance between printability and functionality remains a massive challenge.
Participation on engineered living materials
The PRISM-LT project plans to contribute to the development of the field by designing an adaptable platform for 3D bioprinting living tissue based on hybrid living materials with multiple predictable dynamic functionalities, shapes, and scales.
The success of engineered living materials depends on moving beyond proof-of-concept, solving scale-up challenges, and creating a collaborative community.
Tissue typically develops as stem cells interact with their physical and chemical microenvironments. They probe for and respond to signals that lead to their differentiation towards a specific lineage, such as bone, muscle, or adipose tissue.
PRISM-LT will hijack this natural mechanism to engineer 3D printable living materials that can build themselves into complex living tissues.
The project aims to create a new bio-ink and set a symbiotic relationship between stem cells and engineered helper microorganisms. The team will test this approach on two symbiotic materials designed for biomedical and food applications.
Chemical guidance for long term-commitment
Depending on the application, the PRISM-LT’s bioink will include engineered helper microorganisms—bacteria or yeast—that can produce in-situ relevant growth factors for chemical guidance. They will support the long-term differentiation of stem cells towards a specific lineage required by the process for consolidation.
Long-term viability and robustness
Production of living tissues can be time-consuming. PRISM-LT plans to optimise it by designing self-regulating tissues for long-term stability.
The helper microorganisms remain active only during a limited time window and react only to the early hints from stem cells that have started differentiation. Otherwise, they stay inactive so as not to interfere with the ongoing tissue development.
This switch mechanism limits the impact of unwanted proliferation and genetic instability, leading to more robust and consistent outcomes.
Heterogeneous tissues of complex structure and function
The end goal of the PRISM-LT platform is to bioprint heterogeneous 3D living structures that mimic complex interfaces in specialised human tissues.
The printing process will computationally lay bioink in patterned areas to emulate these complex systems. The platform will focus on the interfaces between bone/fat and muscle/fat at all relevant scales, from sub-millimetre to centimetre.
Demonstrating these results is at the core of the project’s two main applications: biomedicine and food production.
The team will test the project’s platform with two independent symbiotic materials targeting biomedical and food applications, benchmarking the platform to its broadest scope.
It will incorporate bacteria or yeast helper cells and address two different interfaces: bone-fat, concerning biomedical applications, and muscle-fat, given an industrial methodology to produce the marbling of meat associated with intramuscular fat.
Bioprinter photos by Philip Ezze are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.