NTU Singapore researchers use pollen for 3D bioprinting

August 30, 2021
NTU Singapore researchers use pollen for 3D bioprinting

Sunflower pollen may allow the development of stronger 3D printing ink material used for tissue engineering, according to researchers from at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The pollen-derived “bio-ink” is a viable alternative to current inks used for 3D printing in the biomedical field (bioprinting) as it can retain its shape when deposited on a surface, without the need for additional support structures.

The functionality of the new ink was apparent in the 3D printing of a five-layer implantable bioscaffold – a three-dimensional structure used to regrow tissue within the body; it provides anchor points for human tissue cells to be seeded onto the structure. The bio-ink ensured 96% to 97% efficiency of the bioscaffold at retaining the cells, which could go on to reproduce and form replacement biological tissue.

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This efficiency is claimed to be similar to that of 3D cell culture platforms made of inverted colloidal crystal hydrogels, which take more time and effort to build.

The adaptive properties of the pollen microgel particles used in the bio-ink could also conceivably be used to transport medication within the body or enable toxicity testing.

“Through tuning the mechanical properties of sunflower pollen, we developed a pollen-based hybrid ink that can be used to print structures with good structural integrity,” said Professor Cho Nam-Joon, of the School of Material Sciences and Engineering, NTU.

“Utilising pollen for 3D printing is a significant achievement as the process of making the pollen-based ink is sustainable and affordable. Given that there are numerous types of pollen species with distinct sizes, shapes, and surface properties, pollen microgel suspensions could potentially be used to create a new class of eco-friendly 3D printing materials.” The use of pollen, a natural renewable resource, in the biomedical field builds on the NTU researchers’ body of work on repurposing pollen grains as building blocks for various eco-friendly alternative materials that enhance quality of life.

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Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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