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New Silk Bio-Ink for 3D Printers

Woman looking at a 3-d printer

In recent years, 3D printing has made some significant advancements, especially when it comes to medical research. Scientists have recently discovered new ways to make bone, as well as other relatively simple body parts, using a 3D printer, before implanting this into patients. However, when it comes to printing more complex tissues, such as ones that have multiple functions, progress has been slow, and this is because there was no bio-ink that would be able to create this…until now. OROGOLD takes a closer look at these exciting new advancements made in 3D printing, as well as the possibilities that they could bring for the future.

The Problem with Current Inks
Until now, the majority of inks developed for 3D printing are made from thermoplastics, silicones, collagen and other similar materials. While this has been sufficient for simple applications, researchers have been trying to find a way to add different cells or other biological components to these materials, but, the temperature changes and pH adjustments that are necessary to strengthen the materials end up damaging these additional components. These extra components could result in huge breakthroughs, as they would be able to carry out tasks such as fighting infections and directing stem cell functions, and it was this need that led to the search for a new form of 3D printing ink.

The New Silk Bio-Ink
In order to address the limitations that the existing forms of bio-ink bring, researchers from the American Chemical Society began experimenting with silk proteins. Using biocompatible silk proteins, researchers combined this with glycerol, a non-toxic form of sugar alcohol that is commonly found in many food products and pharmaceuticals. The ink that ended up being produced from this unique combination was not only clear and flexible, but it was also stable in water, and didn’t require any additional processing methods. It was these processing methods, such as exposing the inks to high temperatures, that limited the versatility of pre-existing inks.

The Future of Silk Bio-Inks
Now that the benefits of the silk bio-ink have been determined, researchers are extremely excited about the many uses that they will be able to apply this to in the future. In addition to being able to use this silk-based ink in biomedical implants, researchers will also be able to use them for tissue engineering. This could have a significant impact on the medical and cosmetic industries, as well as with the future of 3D printing. For more information on this innovative development, OROGOLD recommends reading the full study, which was published in the ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering journal.

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