By @SimonCocking

Interesting conversation with Jemma Redmond from Ouro_botics  @ouro_botics about what bioprinting is, and what we may well see in the near future.

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What is Ouro_botics?

Ouro_botics started life around four years ago on a kitchen table in Dublin.

Founder Jemma Redmond was working at the time on her masters thesis “An Investigation into Osteoblast Adhesion” and printed copies of finger bones (metacarpals, proximal & distal phalanges) which she then seeded with Osteoblasts and noticed growth was affected by structure.

Realising that a bioprinter would open up more interesting capabilities. She sold her own businesses and started building her own printers testing out different configurations and methods.

Noting that high cost, ease of use, accuracy, upgradability and reliability were features that were lacking in bioprinters on the market.

Ouro_botics was formed to build an affordable modular bioprinting platform for students, biohackers and researchers.

After months of hard work, we built a 10 micron accuracy bioprinting platform that can be fitted with different types of extruder heads and allows researcher to try out different biomaterials such as gelatine, alginate, chitosan, keratin with different extrusion methods.

What is possible now? 

Researchers are able to make small amounts of human tissue outside the body, at the moment this is small pieces of tissue which are easier to produce and are more likely to survive, bigger tissues are more difficult because of vascularisation. That is growing blood vessels inside the tissue to keep the tissue supplied with everything it needs to function and grow.

But tissue like skin, corneas, bladders, bone, etc are doable right now.

These tissues can be printed or you can decellurize dead tissue and reuse it. Pretty much what that means is that you strip the old cells away from an organ or bone and repopulate with the patients cells and regrow the tissue. However there is only so much of this tissue that we can obtain. The holy grail is bioprinting where new tissue can be generated on demand.

What are you guys doing well at?

We have been working on a bioprinting platform that can be easily adapted for different forms of printing. Bioprinting isn’t just one technique with one material and one application, its many techniques, many applications and many materials so you need a machine that can be readily adapted to what you need to work on and thats what we have been building. A few years ago I was printing simple copies of finger bones with cells, things like reproductive systems and carcinoma’s with simple materials to learn what was needed from the hardware.

What is coming soon?

Definitely human tissue arrays… for drug testing. This should result in cheaper, better drugs to treat all manner of ailments being available to everyone. With actual lab grown human tissue for testing, we can reduce and eventually eliminate the need for animal testing.

What is further down the road due to current tech limits / challenges? 

Larger complex organs because of the blood vessel problem. That is making sure enough blood vessels grow in the tissue. Without these the organ will die.

The biggest issues are not so much the technologies more so the regulatory approvals.

The roadmap to what is likely soon… (5 to 10 years max) 

Human skin, cornea’s, patches of tissue like heart, liver, pancreas for repair

Tissue for drug testing –  currently 2 dimensional arrays are used. With 3d dimensional tissue arrays we get much more accurate results.

Cancer arrays,  printing tumours outside the body to allow rapid drug testing.

Customised medications – printers making medications to that patients requirements.

Synthetic meat – chicken, fish, whale, mammoth?, customised healthy food that will taste like a regular mc donalds but in fact be rather good for you.

Spray on skin

Predictions of the future?

Oh that’s easy, what interests me is augmented tissue… at least that’s what I would call it. Why make a copy of the same thing, the same organ, when you can literally, make it better? Stronger, more efficient, longer lasting, perhaps with embedded sensors to give you an idea of whats going on inside your body.. it sounds like science fiction but it is certainly doable.

Biomimicry is a subject  as a scientist that interests me greatly. We can solve a lot of engineering problems by looking to what we can find in nature. And thus we can perhaps do the same with our own bodies.

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