Small robot “bioprints” new cells onto stomach wall as injury scaffold

August 17, 2020
Small robot “bioprints” new cells onto stomach wall as injury scaffold

Scientists at Tsinghua University in China have developed a prototype snake-like robot that could be endoscopically inserted into a patient’s stomach to treat wounds on the stomach wall. Wounds of this nature can leak gastric juices into the surrounding organs and tissues if left untreated. The new bioprinting robot is small enough to fit into the stomach and prevent unnecessary complications.

Typical bioprinters print cells for external injuries, as they are fairly large. Fortunately, the new robot can be folded down to be extra-skinny whilst being inserted;only openingup upon reaching the wound site in the stomach.

The “delta” robot’s head consists of a rigid base surrounded by three independently moving arms which guide a tube that extrudes two types of hydrogel bio-ink – one with human gastric epithelial cells, andone with human gastric smooth muscle cells. These are deposited in two separate layers, forming a scaffold that covers the wound.

“We tested the system first with a biological model of a human stomach and an endoscope, to mimic the insertion and printing operation elements of the process,” said PhD student Wenxiang Zhao. “Then, we carried out a bioprinting test in a cell culture dish to test how effective the device was at bioprinting viable cells and repairing wounds […] A 10-day cell culture showed that printed cells remained at a high viability and a steady proliferation, which indicated good biological function of the cells in printed tissue scaffolds.”

Professor Tao Xu, who works at the university, admitted some tweaks had to be made, such as further miniaturising the robot’s printing platform and refining the bio-inks to withstand long-term use inside the body.


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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