New 3-D printing approach makes cell-scale lattice structures

ScienceDaily | 3/26/2019 | Staff
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The system was developed by Filippos Tourlomousis, a postdoc at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, and six others at MIT and the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. The work is being reported in the journal Microsystems and Nanoengineering.

Many functions of a cell can be influenced by its microenvironment, so a scaffold that allows precise control over that environment may open new possibilities for culturing cells with particular characteristics, for research or eventually even medical use.

Printing - Filaments - Microns - Millionths - Meter

While ordinary 3-D printing produces filaments as fine as 150 microns (millionths of a meter), Tourlomousis says, it's possible to get fibers down to widths of 10 microns by adding a strong electric field between the nozzle extruding the fiber and the stage on which the structure is being printed. The technique is called melt electrowriting.

"If you take cells and put them on a conventional 3-D-printed surface, it's like a 2-D surface to them," he explains, because the cells themselves are so much smaller. But in a mesh-like structure printed using the electrowriting method, the structure is at the same size scale as the cells themselves, and so their sizes and shapes and the way they form adhesions to the material can be controlled by adjusting the porous microarchitecture of the printed lattice structure.

Scale - Environment - Cells - Tourlomousis

"By being able to print down to that scale, you produce a real 3-D environment for the cells," Tourlomousis says.

He and the team then used confocal microscopy to observe the cells grown in various configurations of fine fibers, some random, some precisely arranged in meshes of different dimensions. The large number of resulting images were then analyzed and classified using artificial intelligence methods, to correlate the cell types and their variability with the kinds of microenvironment, with different spacings and arrangements of fibers, in which they were grown.

Cells - Proteins

Cells form proteins...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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