A technique described by its creators as “like picking up a pea by placing a drinking straw on it and sucking through the straw” could make it easier to fabricate precise 3D patterns of biological tissues in the laboratory. The approach, dubbed aspiration-assisted bioprinting, could be used for applications such as regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and in vitro modelling of human diseases.
In 3D bioprinting, cell-laden hydrogels or “bioinks” are used to build biological structures layer-by-layer. Recent advances in the field mean that researchers can routinely fabricate patterned tissues and vascular-like networks and perfuse them with living cells and nutrients. The techniques employed vary depending on the viscosity and nature of the bioinks, and include ink-jet printing, microvalve- and extrusion-based bioprinting to name but three.