The custom-built ink-jet printer, developed at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, can deposit and immobilize growth factors in virtually any design, pattern or concentration, laying down patterns on native extracellular matrix-coated slides (such as fibrin). These slides are then placed in culture dishes and topped with muscle-derived stem cells (MDSCs). Based on pattern, dose or factor printed by the ink-jet, the MDSCs can be directed to differentiate down various cell-fate differentiation pathways (e.g. bone- or muscle-like).

"Previously, researchers have been limited to directing stem cells to differentiate toward multiple lineages in separate culture vessels. This is not how the body works: the body is one vessel in which multiple tissues are patterned and formed. The ink-jet printing technology allows us to precisely engineer multiple unique microenvironments by patterning bio-inks that could promote differentiation towards multiple lineages simultaneously," explained Phil Campbell, research professor at Carnegie Mellon's Institute for Complex Engineered Systems.

"Controlling what types of cells differentiate from stem cells and gaining spatial control of stem cell differentiation are important capabilities if researchers are to engineer replacement tissues that might be used in treating disease, trauma or genetic abnormalities," said Lee Weiss, research professor at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute.

The Pittsburgh team envisions the ink-jet technology as potentially useful for engineering stem cell-based therapies for repairing defects where multiple tissues are involved, such as joints where bone, tendon, cartilage and muscle interface. Patients afflicted with conditions like osteoarthritis might benefit from these therapies, which incorporate the needs of multiple tissues and may improve post-treatment clinical outcomes.

MEDICA.de; Source: Carnegie Mellon University