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scientists build 3D bioprinter from LEGO bricks as low-cost solution to printing human skin

3D Lego bioprinter for biomedical research

 

Scientists from Cardiff University have constructed their own 3D bioprinter by stacking up LEGO bricks as their affordable and scalable machinery that can print out human skin for scientific studies and research. Imagined, designed, and built by Dr. Christopher Thomas, Dr. Oliver Castell, and Dr. Sion Coulman from Cardiff’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the 3D LEGO bioprinter can produce tissue models and print biological materials such as skin cells.

 

Having a low-cost answer to churning out human tissue samples for biomedical research enable researchers to advance their scientific understanding of medical conditions and develop effective treatments. ‘We set out to create a bioprinter that anyone can build, with minimal funds and that’s exactly what we have achieved. Our paper intentionally details every element of the build, including the specific LEGO parts used, as well as its capability, so that it can be easily replicated in any lab, anywhere in the world,’ says Dr. Coulman.

3d lego bioprinter cardiff
images courtesy of the researchers (Dr. Christopher Thomas, Dr. Oliver Castell, Dr. Sion Coulman)

 

 

DIY printer for biological materials 

 

The scientists from Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences invite medical researchers to try their hand at building their own 3D bioprinter using LEGO bricks. They have outlined the exact methodology used to engineer and build the device in their study in hopes of making a machine that is easy to modify by other laboratories and tailor based on the research needs of the scientists. The scientists have also taken their 3D LEGO bioprinter for a spin and successfully printed hydrogel droplets containing cells, as seen in the video.

 

They are now in the process of recreating the three-dimensional architecture of the skin. ‘We’ve demonstrated that, despite being constructed from an inexpensive and simple construction tool, this bioprinter is highly engineered and achieves the required level of precision to produce delicate biological material without any compromise in its performance,’ says Dr. Castell. The entrance of the Cardiff team’s open-source 3D LEGO bioprinter brings in a suggestion of making it possible to build a scientifically robust, and low-cost machine for biomedical research.

3d lego bioprinter cardiff
the 3D LEGO bioprinter is hoped to produce tissue models for biomedical research

 

 

test treatments for skin disease and cancer

 

The Cardiff team is already looking into creating viable skin models through the bioprinter which can be used to test treatments for skin disease and skin cancer, or to create skin grafts to replace damaged skin. ‘As with all 3D bioprinting, there are more studies to be done, to look at developing the cell compatibility and viability of bio-inks. By making our printer readily available, we hope researchers will adopt this technology to share expertise and develop the model with additional LEGO components for the benefit of the biomedical research community,’ adds Dr. Castell.

 

While the research is still in its infancy, the LEGO 3D bioprinter could help further our understanding of diseases, contribute to tissue engineering and repair, and enable personalized medicine through the printing of cultured patient cells. The research was primarily supported by a British Skin Foundation Ph.D. studentship grant. 

3d lego bioprinter cardiff
the scientists have successfully printed hydrogel droplets containing cells

lego-3d-printer-human-skin-cardiff-university-designboom-1800

3D LEGO bioprinter from Cardiff University

3d lego bioprinter cardiff
the bioprinter is being developed to also print biological materials such as skin cells

3d lego bioprinter cardiff
the bioprinter suggests the possibility of building a proficient, robust, and low-cost machine for biomedical research

3d lego bioprinter cardiff
Dr. Oliver Castell, Dr. Christopher Thomas, and Dr. Sion Coulman, the scientists behind the bioprinter

 

 

project info:

 

name: 3D LEGO Bioprinter
institution: Cardiff University

department: School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

team: Dr. Christopher Thomas, Dr. Oliver Castell, Dr. Sion Coulman

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