Design Award recognises 3D bioprinter

A printer made by two University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers has won the 2019 Good Design Award of the Year.

The printer is a 3D bioprinter can print replicas of tumours and is the result of a partnership between UNSW’s Australian Centre for Nanomedicine (ACN), and Inventia Life Science.

With the printer, researchers can create 3D cell structures quickly, along with proteins and tumour models.

“This bioprinter allows cancer researchers to rapidly produce 3D cultures and build more complex in vitro cancer models than ever before,” said scientia professor Justin Gooding, from UNSW’s School of Chemistry.

The printer was first built in 2016 and was the result of and Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grant. The printer has allowed rapid advances in the understanding of how cells work for medical purposes.

“The difference between this printer and other 3D bioprinting technology is now we have precise control of the types of cells and the environment they grow in – allowing us to create 3D cell models and print artificial tumours,” said Gooding.

Although cancer is inherently unstable, the technology contained in this printer closely mimics the natural state of cancers.

“It gives us enormous opportunities to model real cancer cells. Different tumours survive in different microenvironments – a person doesn’t just have a tumour, but many other cells such as immune cells and accessory cells – living around that tumour that influence that environment and response to therapy,” said professor Maria Kavallaris, from the Children’s Cancer Institute.

In the future, the technology that is used in the printer could be used to further research into burns and wounds through clinical bedside-bioprinting.

The recognition demonstrates the value that can come from collaboration between engineering and medical fields, and is a world first, according to Professor Gooding.

“The type of ink developed for the printer means cell biologists for the first time have the capability to precisely deposit multiple cell types in a single 3D cell culture. They will also be able to control the proteins that binds cells together. This is critical because it allows cancer researchers to better understand the variables in cancer formation,” said Gooding.