The medical AM segment is multifaceted, consisting of 3D printed medical devices, anatomical models, prosthetics and more. Within the industry, bioprinting has carved out a prominent position, gaining interest across the board for its huge potentials in drug development and screening, therapeutic treatments and regenerative medicine, to name but a few. While much of the excitement surrounding bioprinting is focused on the future—what it could do—we want to look at what is happening now in the field that is exciting.
As part of our Medical AM Focus, we asked bioprinting leaders from across the sector what they considered to be the most exciting thing about bioprinting today. In this segment, we hear from Scottish bioink expert Biogelx.
Biogelx was founded in 2013 as a spin-off of the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. Today, the company is one of a handful that is developing and producing tunable synthetic materials for bioprinting applications. In April 2019, Biogelx commercialized its first synthetic bioink product range for bioprinting.
Working on the materials-side, it is no surprise that the company sees bioinks as being a crucial factor in advancing bioprinting applications. “Here at Biogelx, we are particularly interested in the use of new bioink technologies for the creation of functional tissues,” the company says. “These functional tissues have potential use in replacing injured or diseased tissue, or could provide a non-animal alternative for testing drugs and cosmetics.”
“Bioinks are often complex materials which, for a given application, must have the appropriate mechanical and biological properties to model the native tissue,” Biogelx elaborates. “In ideal cases, a bio-printable material will suit a range of needs by showing compatibility with many cell types, and mechanical tunability in order to model a range of tissues. They possess the ability to be printed in complex shapes and can bear their own weight allowing for 3D printed structures. Mechanical tunability allows for bioinks to be optimised for any print method and viscosity can be altered depending on needs.”
Within the spectrum of bioprinting materials, the Strathclyde-based company sees significant potential in hydrogel-based bioinks, because of their excellent biocompatibility and biodegradability. Hydrogel-based bioinks also offer the advantage of facilitating cell differentiation, spreading, growth and attachment.
“There is a great amount of interest in the development of new bioink formulations and materials, which will only increase as both the printer and bioink technologies are further developed,” Biogelx adds. “With this, there will be an increased need for metrics to measure bioink performance, leading to more clearly defined standardisation in uses for bioinks. More and more uses for bioinks are emerging, and we believe the development of new bio-printable skin models will be an impactful demonstration of the power of bioprinting.”
Biogelx has been solidifying its position in the bioprinting market in the past year, expanding its reseller network and creating partnerships around the world. Today, the company’s bioprinting materials are used for a handful of applications, including drug screening, where there is a need to create more physiologically relevant in vitro models.