Seaweed Is The Key To 3D-Printed Tissues

3D-printed tissues can be optimized thanks to seaweed.
Joseph Wolkin

The next time you go fishing, make sure you keep the seaweed that gets caught on your hook.

Seaweed, according to new research revealed by Penn State University scientists, can be 3D-printed into tiny particles, creating more breathable tissues.


"One of the problems with fabrication of tissues is that we can't make them large in size," Ibrahim Ozbolat, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics said. "Cells die if nutrients and oxygen can't get inside."

The seaweed creates sodium alginate. The researchers used it to print the tiny particles, which leave small pores ine the fabric of the tissue.

A combination of human stem cells with the sodium alginate from the seaweed can make patches of tissue when it's in strands.

What Does This Mean For The Future?

This same group of researchers are even looking at the possibility of how the seaweed technique can make muscles, fat and/or different tissues.

Currently, the research team can only make small patches and not large ones. While this does limit them at the moment, the impact they can have in the future could be endless.

This method, they said, is easier to create compared to other aritifical tissue growing techniques.

"These patches can be implanted in bone or cartilage, depending on which cells they are," Ozbolat said. "They can be used for osteoarthritis, patches for plastic surgery such as the cartilage in the nasal septum, knee restoration and other bone or cartilage defects."

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In order to create these 3D-printed strands, the researchers exposed the tissue to a chemical cocktail. From there, they tuned the stem cells into very specific ones like simulated bone or cartilage. With the small pores, the fluid flows to each stem cell.

According to Digital Trends, "The researchers report in a recent issue of Biofabrication that the strands maintain 25 percent porosity and have pore connectivity of 85 percent for at least three weeks."

The self-assembling tissue patches come together when the 3D printed strands are put next to or on top of one another.

This research is key in helping people who have bone and tissue issues, eventually enabling such a mock-tissue to have blood vessels.

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