AZoM speaks with Dr. Iman Roohani from UNSW. Dr. Roohani is part of a team of researchers that developed a technique referred to as Ceramic Omnidirectional Bioprinting in Cell-Suspensions (COBICS). This technique could allow surgeons to print structures that can be submerged in water and hardened within just minutes, resembling natural bone. Even more revolutionary, the structures contain living cells that continue to grow after they are implanted.
Can you give our readers a summary of your recent research?
We have developed a technique (COBICS) that enables printing constructs with the same chemistry to native bone mineral at room temperature with living cells. These structures are the most accurate mimics of the bone tissue. COBICS can print complex and biologically relevant architecture constructs without the need for sacriﬁcial support materials, on-spot and laborious post-processing steps.
Could you provide our readers with more information on the term Ceramic Omnidirectional Bioprinting in Cell-Suspensions (COBICS)?
COBICS has two main components. A chemically cross-linked microhydrogel bath with optimized yield-stress properties that support the printing of the ceramic ink, the second component, in the presence of live cells. The ink is a calcium phosphate paste with a specific formulation that allows the material to be used directly in the aqueous environment, without the need for any post-processing steps, such as high-temperature treatments, that are required for other types of existing ceramic materials.
Once ink comes in contact with the microgel, nanocrystalization kicks off at the interface between ink and hydrogel, which further locks the filament in place. Since this ink can harden quickly without imposing adverse effects on living cells, COBICS enables printing within a suspension of living cells to achieve complex bone shapes, where the cells integrate to form natural bone tissue.
What are some of the benefits that this technique could have in comparison to traditional bone graft procedures?
Traditional bone grafts, particularly synthetic ones, are mostly fabricated from ceramic materials at high temperatures, which disallows integration with cells and growth factors. Moreover, due to high temperature processing, the microstructure of such grafts does not resemble the native bone.
In the future, how important do you think 3D printing is going to be in medical settings?
COBICS paves the way to fabricate autologous graft like structures in the laboratory, which significantly reduces the risks and drawbacks involved in harvesting these grafts from the patient in the clinical setting by using only cells from the patient or other sources of regenerative cells. This also could enable patient-specific real-time bone reconstruction where the bioprinter could directly print new bone into the resected space.
You could even isolate the patient's stem cells before surgery for inclusion with the ink to improve the integration of the new bone into the surgery site or in dental reconstruction. In another example, drugs could be integrated with the ink for sustained release over time to increase natural bone formation, combat bacteria, or influence the immune system (e.g., enhance wound healing).
Can you tell us more about how the ink for this technique was developed and its role as part of this technique?
The ink has an essential role in printing the constructs by the COBICS technique. The optimization process of formulating the ink took around 2 years since we had to ensure that ink has several properties that were mutually exclusive. Those properties included biocompatibility, being printable, proper setting time, adequate strength and firmness after printing, and printing in contact with the microgel bath.
As the technique is still in its initial stages, what's next in its development?
We have an ongoing animal study at the moment, that will hopefully confirm our hypothesis that there should be no harmful components in our material. Thus far, all of our tests with human cells in the laboratory have confirmed high biocompatibility. We plan to scale up our production of bone-like grafts and test the regenerative properties of the printed grafts in large animal models before proceeding with human trials and regulatory approval. If everything goes well and we find external funding support, we are optimistic the technique may be ready for the clinic within 5 years.
Where can readers find more information?
Readers can check out the full article at https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.202008216.
About Dr. Iman Roohani
From 2010 to 2014, Dr. Roohani studied and received his Ph.D. degree at the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Sydney (USYD) in Sydney, Australia. From 2016 to 2020, he worked in the field of biomaterials and tissue engineering as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) early career fellow, first in the biomedical engineering department at the University of Sydney, and then at the School of Chemistry in the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Dr. Roohani is interested in the use of biomaterials as the bone substitute, drug delivery and instructive source for cells. More specifically, his interests comprise synthesis and development of a range of bioceramics, including calcium phosphates, understanding of the interaction between living cells and synthetic substrates, and translation of the application of these materials and concepts to clinical applications.
Dr. Roohani is the inventor of several patented products, including the COBICs techniques. He is the author of more than 60 peer-reviewed publications (h index of 23), book chapters, and 3 patent applications.
Email: [email protected]
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=NyzEeygAAAAJ&hl=en
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