IRNAS Vitaprint opens doors to 3D bioprinted tissue research

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The Institute for Development of
Advanced Application Systems
(Institute IRNAS) in Rače,
Solvenia, takes an opensource approach to the research and
development of “technologies that improve lives.” Vitaprint is
the institute’s open 3D bioprinting platform. In addition to
developing Vitaprint hardware and software, IRNAS researchers
are making templates that can be used by others. The latest
Vitaprint template is a system of vessels matching those found
in the ear.

Inside an opensource biolab

Vitaprint research takes place at the
institute’s Symbiolab – an opensource biolab giving
biomedical researchers access to the latest equipment and
materials. Previous projects at the Symbiolab include mushroom
cultivation as a means of biodegradable packaging, or even

vegan leather,
and Fabrikor – an ongoing project to develop
“future proof” hardware.

IRNAS Vitaprint setup. Photo via IRNASIRNAS Vitaprint
setup. Photo via IRNAS

Challenges to tissue engineering 

The most recent Vitaprint protocol tackles one of
the greatest present challenges
in 3D biofabrication.
Boštjan Vihar, a Biomimmeticist at IRNAS explains, “Currently
vascularization is a major issue in tissue engineering,” this
is due in part to the resolution available in man-made systems.
It is difficult to
match the micro and nano-scopic
scale of many features in
the human body.

“….the approach we are testing,” continues Vihar, “is creating
methods for free form fabrication of perfusable vessles in
compatible matrices which may be used as a basis for blood
vessel fabrication.”

Bioprinting an ear

At IRNAS, vessels are written with the point of needle.
Researchers start with a circular gel – the supporting matrix.

A gel matrix on the Vitaprint bioprinter. Photo via IRNASA gel matrix on the
Vitaprint bioprinter. Photo via IRNAS

The complex vessel structure, with a number of branches, is
then written into the gel by a syringe mounted to a mechanical
gantry. As the needle of the syringe leaves the matrix, the gel
automatically seals over the spot. The hollow pathways can then
be
injected with substances, including cells,
to study how
they behave in the vessel network.

An ear vessel network written into a gel bed. Photo via IRNASAn ear vessel
network written into a gel bed. Photo via IRNAS

The future is opensourse

With many challenges still to face, tissue engineering is
certain to benefit from a shared, open-source approach. The
Vitaprint project at IRNAS benefits from a number of
partnership with leading research academies, including
the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria and RWTH
Aachen University.

Elsewhere, Rice University, Texas, the University of
Maryland, and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
will be in close collaboration at the
NIH’s forthcoming Center for Engineering Complex
Tissues.
A number of opensource biolabs are also opening
around the world, including
Manchester’s BiOspace in the UK
, and
bioprinting facilities at Fab Lab Amsterdam.

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