Tissue printing may significantly improve how any number of medical conditions are treated, perhaps one day even allowing for complete organs to be created in the lab to replace diseased ones. The most promising technique involves using modified inkjet printers to deposit live cells onto a substrate, but a significant drawback is that the cells often end up injured or killed by the printers. Now researchers from Houston Methodist Research Institute, Cornell University, and University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have developed a completely new approach that can safely deposit live cells in an ordered fashion without causing them damage.
The technique, inspired by Chinese woodblock printing, relies on creating a silicone mold with channels leading to individual cells’ locations. Once a cell falls into one of the traps assigned for a cell’s location, the following cells in the channel skip over the trap and moves on to find an open one to drop into. Once the cells are resting in their final locations, the mold is removed and the cells remain on the substrate where intended, alive and well.
This image shows cells printed in a grid pattern by block cell printing technology (left) and woodblocks used in ancient Chinese printing (right).
Provided by: Kai Zhang, Chao-Kai Chou, Xiaofeng Xia, Mien-Chie Hung, and Lidong Qin. Block-Cell-Printing for live single-cell printing. PNAS, February 2014 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1313661111