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Nanoengineer receives NIH grant to print cardiac tissue

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Shaochen Chen

San Diego, Calif., July 11, 2016 -- Shaochen Chen, a nanoengineering professor at the University of California San Diego, received a four-year $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a “rapid multimaterial bioprinting” platform for building patient-specific biomimetic heart tissue. The technology could lead to breakthroughs in efforts to grow replacement cardiac tissue for people who have suffered a heart attack and for treating other cardiac diseases.

This novel bioprinting technology is capable of producing complex three-dimensional microstructures that mimic the sophisticated designs and functions of biological tissues. And the technology can print a biomimetic structure in just a few seconds—a vast improvement over current bioprinting methods, which normally take hours.

Researchers will use the technology to build pre-vascularized cardiac tissue containing intricate networks of blood vessels and capillaries of various sizes. The bioprinting system will use live cells—in this case, a combination of human heart muscle cells (derived from induced pluripotent stem cells) and endothelial cells—as the “ink” to print biomimetic tissues.

The method works by projecting an image of the structure to be printed onto a solution containing cells that will eventually grow into the tissue and polymers that will solidify into the three-dimensional scaffold. Millions of micromirrors in the system are individually controlled to shine a pattern of UV light onto the solution, solidifying the polymers one layer at a time. The resulting biomimetic tissue is essentially a solid polymer scaffold encapsulating the live cells.

“We’re developing a next generation 3D bioprinting technology that is scalable, high throughput and able to deliver multiple biomaterials and cells for future applications like organ printing,” Chen said.

Chen is affiliated with the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at UC San Diego and is the lead principal investigator of this project. A co-investigator of the team is Ali Khademhosseini, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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