The combination of a 2-Photon 3D printer with an innovative hydrogel-based bioink allows the direct printing of 3D structures containing living cells at both the meso- and microscale. Developed by UpNano, the NanoOne Bio is a printer based on the successful NanoOne range of laser-powered 2-Photon 3D printers that are able to build structures across 12 orders of magnitude. The new hydrogel has been developed with Xpect INX, a spin-off in foundation specialised in the development of biocompatible materials for the 3D-(bio-)printing industry. It is the only commercially available resin that allows embedding living cells straight from a culture plate within highly precise 3D-printed structures for biological applications.
Two-dimensional cell cultures have been the standard in pharmaceutical preclinical R&D and in biomedical research in general, for many decades. However, growing evidence demonstrates that these models poorly represent the cellular interaction at the 3D level in living systems. Therefore, drug development based on 2D systems is often misguided, resulting in billions of dollars of unfruitful R&D costs. So far, building complex and highly precise 3D structures with embedded living cells has been hampered by lack of suitable materials and printing systems. Thanks to the joint development of a novel hydrogel-based Bioink by Xpect INX and UpNano in combination with the new printing model by UpNano this endeavoru has now turned into reality.
“The combined competences of UpNano in developing 3D-printing devices and Xpect INX in designing innovative materials for 3D-printing gelled well together,” comments Peter Gruber, head of technology and co-founder of UpNano. “We co-developed X Hydrobio INX U200, a highly biocompatible hydrogel, and at the same time we offer a 2-Photon 3D-printing device that provides the largest range of printed dimensions.” X Hydrobio INX U200 is a water-soluble hydrogel that allows transfer of cell cultures from 2D culture plates into complex 3D structures. “The gelatin-based X Hydrobio INX U200 has been specifically developed for the encapsulation of multiple cell types thereby allowing the generation of complex 3D microtissues,” says Jasper Van Hoorick, project lead at Xpect INX. “The hydrogel mimics the natural cellular environment and is biodegradable, thereby allowing the cells to gradually substitute the material with newly formed tissue.” The gel solves the issues encountered with standard growth media on which cell cultures have been incubated in a 2D manner. Following this, the hydrogel containing living cells can be directly fed into the NanoOne Bio. Extensive research showed that the 780nm red light laser of the NanoOne Bio is not harmful to living cells, even at the exceptionally high power used by the NanoOne printers. In fact, the high laser power which is unique to UpNano’s 2-Photon 3D-printing systems, allows for the use of optics that enable the fast production of cm large structures with exceptionally high precision, down to nanoscale.