There have been a number of techniques recently developed for printing objects with living cells inside of them. The technology can lead to custom tissue replacements and other medical applications, but all these methods are quite slow.
That’s because living cells have to somehow be carefully moved through microfluidic channels to mix with other components, such as a structural material, and then onward to a nozzle that does the actual printing.
At the University of Twente in The Netherlands, researchers have now developed a remarkable new way of quickly printing 3D structures that have living cells seeded throughout them. They are able to very precisely squirt two liquid solutions together, one of which has living cells in it, that quickly interact with each other and solidify into a desired shape. The researchers rightfully dubbed their technique “in-air microfluidics”.
So far the method seems to allow for only cylindrical objects, but surely this is just a proof of concept, and fast control of the nozzles and other advancements should permit greater variations in the shapes that can be created. The precision of the shape, though, is probably less important than being able to rapidly bring together thousands of living cells into an object without the first ones printed starting to wither before the last ones are placed on top.