Bioprinting in the News: 'Bioprinters Are Churning Out Living Fixes to Broken Spines' By WIRED

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Bioprinters are an essential piece of lab equipment for any scientist, researcher, or doctor that wants to study cells in a relevant way. This is because cells in 3D behave differently than their counterparts studied in a 2D environment; they express more accurate biomarkers and perform more physiologically relevant actions. Bioprinters accelerate the pace of research and allow scientists to find innovative solutions to real world problems.

This awesome article by WIRED profiles a team at UC San Diego that has bioprinted a section of spinal cord that can be custom-fit into a patient’s injury.

It’s awesome to see how bioprinting allows researchers to reliably study the body outside the body. Together, we can change the way we study and treat illness!

Read the full article here.

The Allevi Academy

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By Lauren McLeod, Bioengineer: 

Here at Allevi, we’re always looking to the future - how to prepare for future challenges, how to revolutionize and improve on current research and methodologies...but sometimes it’s necessary to reflect on the past.  We took some time to think about the education experiences that got us to where we are today. Most of us conjured up memories of an impressionable teacher, exciting project, or even an awesome field trip that sparked an excitement for learning and science.  We thought to ourselves, “Why not have bioprinting be the seed of students’ excitement and learning for the field of bioengineering?”

We’re excited to announce the launch of The Allevi Academy- the first step in preparing today’s students for the regenerative medicine challenges of the future!  We partnered with high school teachers, university professors, and educators across the world to produce the best, most streamlined and accessible curriculum possible to arm teachers with the materials and resources needed to introduce their students to bioprinting.  

Through our curriculum, students gain experience with cutting edge biotechnology, putting them light years ahead of their peers as they enter college and the workforce.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, bioengineers hold the third fastest growing job in the United States, with a projected ten year growth of 61.7% by 2020. Our curriculum gives students a competitive advantage in this burgeoning field.

The curriculum enables students to develop valuable skills across multiple engineering disciplines. Included activities incorporate coding, computer aided design, engineering drawings and 3D fabrication to produce innovative solutions for situations modeled after real life tissue engineering challenges. From designing and prototyping hydrogel wound coverings, to vascularization channels for organ on a chip applications, students learn to problem solve and think critically- skills that span way beyond the field of bioengineering.

       -    All inclusive
       -    Easy to use
       -    Satisfies Next Generation Science 
       -    Satisfies National Science Education Standards
       -    Hands on
       -    Real world applications
       -    Adaptable

Check out The Allevi Academy and learn how you can prepare students for the future of STEM and provide them with the tools they need to tackle the challenges of the future!

Print Alive, Print Allevi

Allevi Author: 3D Bioprinting a Spinal Cord

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People often ask us, “what is it that a bioprinter can do really well?”, and we tell them that it’s the ability to print and pattern living cells. Your cells are incredible organisms; they understand the environment around them and communicate with other cells to perform specific organ functions. This is why a bioprinter is such an amazing tool - it empowers you to control the geometry and placement of multiple cell types which allows cells to mimic the environments that they are used to in the body. But some cells are more finicky than others… induced pluripotent stem cells and neural cells for instance are difficult to keep alive and difficult to control.

That’s why this next #AlleviAuthor from University of Minnesota really blew us away with their new paper titled “3D Printed Stem-Cell Derived Neural Progenitors Generate Spinal Cord Scaffolds” and published in Advanced Functional Materials, wherein they used Allevi bioinks to 3D bioprint a spinal cord using induced pluripotent stem cells and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs).

Successfully bioprinting multicellular neural tissue is a huge win for the field of regenerative medicine as it would allow damaged tissue to rebuild functional axonal connections across the central nervous system, essentially healing damaged connections. This technique will hopefully help develop new clinical approaches to treat neurological disease, such as spinal cord injury.

You can access the full paper here to learn more.

Allevi Now Available Through VWR

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Here at Allevi, we are constantly working to make our bioprinters and bioinks accessible to scientists worldwide.  Our mission is to get Allevi 3D bioprinters into the best research labs where they can accelerate the pace of discovery and push the boundaries of biology. That's why today we're excited to announce that you can now shop Allevi products on the world's leading life science equipment distributor; VWR International. 

Now it’s easier than ever to get an Allevi bioprinter into your lab and begin changing the world. Join us.

Reprogramming the Fate of Cells

In the previous post we wrote titled, “What is Bioprinting?”, we discussed biomaterials, cells, and creating representative 3D structures as being the basis of bioprinting. Over the course of the next few posts, we’ll try to delve a little deeper into each of these aspects in order to provide some more context about the challenges of engineering organs. This post focuses on how we can differentiate cells into the different types we need to make complex tissues.

As organisms become more and more complex, the cells which make up their bodies become increasingly more specialized for a specific function, losing the ability to perform any other functions. Organisms such as planaria can be cut into multiple pieces and each piece can regenerate into an entirely new planarian. Jellyfish that have had their limbs removed reorganize to regain their symmetry. Humans and most other adult mammals lose their ability to return to the state observed during the development of the embryo, in which cells are able to change into several different types (pluripotency) from a set of common cells known as embryonic stem cells. In order to be able to address the challenges of regenerating tissues and organs, we need to be able to gain access to such stem cells, or develop techniques to convert adult cells directly into different specialized cell types (metaplasia) or into less specialized cell types (dysplasia) (Cherry 2012). Embryonic stem cells, however, are difficult to obtain. Though embryonic stem cells remained the starting source from which scientists tried to engineer different cells for many years, this all changed in 2006 when Takahashi and Yamanaka from the Kyoto University successfully converted mouse fibroblast cells into induced pluripotent cells (Takahashi and Yamanaka, 2006). In essence, they came up with a way to take adult cells back to a less specialized form, unlocking their potential to be converted into many different cell types. By doing so, they laid the foundations for work in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine by coming up with a source from which many cell types could be created. They, and the other scientists that followed up on their work, did so by focusing not on recreating the conditions during development of the embryo but by applying certain factors (Oct4, Sox2,Klf4, and c-Myc)which would turn cells back to less specialized states (de-differentiation) (Hawkins 2010; Doi 2009; Kim 2010; Polo 2010).

This ground-breaking work inspired scientists to try creating several different cell lineages. But a major challenge they faced when doing this work in vitro was that certain cell types only retain their characteristics when they are in their natural 3D environment. An example of this is a hepatocyte (liver cell), which loses its characteristics when cultured in 2D. So two questions arose: 1) Could we recreate the 3D environment that cells need to maintain their specific characteristics or signature? 2) Could we analyze these cells to determine how successfully we were able to change from one cell type into another?

To answer 1), scientists have been working on techniques to culture cells in 3D constructs. Bioprinting is a method of standardizing the process of making these constructs as well as allowing us to make more complex constructs that mimic the 3D environment in the human body. Allevi aims to make bioprinting more easily available to scientists.

An answer to the second question was recently proposed by the Daley lab at Harvard. They developed CellNet, a network biology platform, to determine how successfully cells were transformed into different types by comparing their characteristic genetic signature to a database of standard cell signatures for many different cell types. It can also show the most optimal way to convert one cell type into another (Cahan, Li, and Morris 2014; Morris, Cahan, and Li 2014).

So, theoretically, the constructs we build with a 3D bioprinter could be cultured and the extent of differentiation (i.e. specialization) of the many cell types as they grow within the construct could be assessed using CellNet. Indeed, the Daley lab showed that cells cultured in vivo showed more complete conversion than cells cultured in vitro in 2D conditions (Cahan, Li, and Morris 2014; Morris, Cahan, and Li 2014). This leads us to propose that cells cultured in 3D may be the way to go forward.

Enter 3D bioprinting.