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Inside the Lab Quality assurance and quality control, Technology and innovation

The Big Freeze

3D bioprinted tissues hold promise for the future of medical research and patient care – but they are currently limited by their short shelf life. Challenges in fabrication and storage mean such tissues survive only days or even hours – so rapid transportation is necessary to ensure that they are viable at their destination. But a new cryobioprinting strategy simultaneously fabricates and stores 3D tissues in cryogenic conditions – meaning they can be preserved for longer, with cryoprotective bioinks helping to maintain cell functionality (1).

Cryobioprinting also allows scientists to print more intricate shapes than traditional methods. “The bioink filament freezes within milliseconds of reaching the cold plate, so it has no time to lose its original shape,” said lead author Y. Shrike Zhang (2). “Then you can build layers on top of each other, eventually creating a freestanding 3D structure that can withstand its own weight.”

But the ability to build stable structures is not the only advantage of the cryobioprinting process. To ensure that the bioprinted tissues worked as intended, the researchers first created cell-laden constructs using a variety of bioinks to identify the ideal combination of cryoprotective agents, then conducted a series of assays to evaluate the viability of the resulting tissues. The good news? Using this new approach, cryobioprinted tissues could be revived even three months after fabrication.

“Reviving the tissues is pretty easy,” said Zhang (2). “It’s like reviving any type of cryo-stored cells. You return them into a warm medium and use a rapid thawing process.” The viability testing also demonstrated that the revived tissues were capable of performing their original functions – and that the cells were even able to undergo normal differentiation. Taken together, these results mean that cryobioprinted tissues can be stored for future use and transferred between locations as needed – whether for research collaborations, pharmaceutical testing, or even transplantation into patients.

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  1. H Ravanbakhsh et al., Matter, (2021).
  2. Cell Press (2021). Available at: https://bit.ly/3IzqodJ.
About the Author
Liv Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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