CELLINK has acquired in-vitro technology specialist MatTek in a bid to create a cruelty-free drug testing model. Photo via MatTek.
A BRIGHTER alternative to animal testing
Alongside IBEC, Goethe University Frankfurt, Israel’s Technion center, and biotechnology firms Mycronic and Cellendes are also taking part in the BRIGHTER project. The initiative hopes to overcome many of the technical obstacles currently limiting the fabrication of complex human tissues.
The partners are working together to develop a novel Light Sheet Bioprinting process capable of producing complex and accurate in vitro models that can be used for cosmetics and drug testing within the pharmaceutical industry and in research settings.
To fine-tune the technology, the BRIGHTER team is endeavoring to 3D print human skin, which is a highly complex tissue made up of multiple cell types and structures, such as sweat glands and hair follicles. Hydrogels will form a key component of the bioprinting process as they form the base from which cells will grow and form new tissue, and can also be personalized to individual patients using their own cells.
To print the skin with the desired structure, shape and consistency, the researchers are using advanced imaging techniques that combine illumination with light sheets and high-resolution digital photomasks. By applying a laser directly into the hydrogel, the cells within it can be “patterned” and molded to the right shape, enabling the team to control the 3D printed structure’s stiffness, shape, and dimensions.
The ability to mold the hydrogel with high levels of detail is particularly crucial to the successful printing of human skin, as the tissue is made up of numerous layers with different cell types. According to the BRIGHTER team, their bioprinting process is also capable of generating vascularization of the printed tissue and enabling the function of the sebaceous and sweat glands, and the hair follicles to grow hair.
“We hope to be able to print a skin sample with an area of 1cm² and a thickness of 1mm in approximately 10 minutes and with cell viability of more than 95 percent, greatly improving current bioprinting conditions,” said Dr. Nuria Torras, postdoctoral researcher at IBEC.
The BRIGHTER project hopes the successful printing of the in vitro skin models will validate their potential for use in both pharmaceutical and research environments, and ultimately reduce animal experimentation for drug and cosmetics testing.