3D Bioprinting Inside The Human Body Could Be Possible Thanks To New Soft Robot

Engineers have developed a flexible robot that enters the rectum to 3D print living cells on damaged organs, eliminating the need for patients to 'go under the knife'. The University of South Wales Sydney team designed the miniature robotic arm to directly deliver 'bioink,' made of gelatin, collagen, human cells and other materials, onto the surface of internal organs and tissues. The proof-of-concept device, known as F3DB, features a highly maneuverable swivel head that 'prints' the bioink attached to the end of the arm, all of which can be controlled externally. The research team say that with further development, the technology could be used by medical professionals to access hard-to-reach areas inside the body via small skin incisions or natural orifices. The device features a three-axis printing head directly mounted onto the tip of a soft robotic arm. This printing head, which consists of soft artificial muscles that allow it to move in three directions, works very similarly to conventional desktop 3D printers. The soft robotic arm can bend and twist due to hydraulics and can be fabricated at any length required. The printing nozzle can be programmed to print pre-determined shapes, or operated manually where more complex or undetermined bioprinting is required. In addition, the team utilised a machine learning-based controller which can aid the printing process. Dr Do and his team have tested their device inside an artificial colon, as well as 3D printing a variety of materials with different shapes on the surface of a pig’s kidney.