A few years ago, a French daily published an article titled “Korea’s Use of Algae as a Food Ingredient of the Earth”. The article highlighted the environmental potential of algae, which Westerners usually find unappealing due to their soft, pulpy consistency. Algae have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and generate significantly lower carbon emissions.
Thus, simply eating algae can play a constructive role in protecting the environment. However, progress has been made in the production of meat grown using algae, thus offering a new approach to land conservation. Moreover, algae can also be used to engineer artificial organs for those suffering from organ failure.
The research team was led by Professor Heung-Jun Cha of the Department of Chemical Engineering and College of Convergence Science and Technology, and Ph.D. Candidates Sangmin Lee and Dr Geunho Choi of the Department of Chemical Engineering at POSTECH have developed a biolinker that features enhanced cell capacity and printing accuracy.
This feat was achieved through the use of algae-derived alginate, natural carbohydrates, and harmless visible light. The search results are published in carbohydrate polymers.
3D bioprinting is a methodology used to manufacture artificial organs or tissues through the use of bioinks containing cells. This technology holds great promise in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine while also attracting significant interest in the food technology sector due to its potential to produce cultured meat, an emerging concept in food production in the future. However, the currently available biolinkers present limitations, impeding cell motility and resulting in decreased cell viability and printing resolution.
To address these challenges, the research team created a microgel using photolinkable alginate. Next, they developed a 3D-printed biolinker capable of facilitating free cell movement and proliferation using this photolinkable alginate microgel. This cell-filled bio-ligand microgel resulted in a 4-fold increase in cell proliferation compared to conventional bio-ligands.
Moreover, the microgel showed low viscosity when exposed to external forces within a specified period, and immediately recovered its initial shape even after deformation. These properties greatly increase the resolution and lamination capacity of the print results.
Professor Heung Jun Cha, who led the research, explained, “We engineered functional tissue structures by utilizing a biomaterial-based biolinker with exceptional and stable cell-loading capabilities for practical 3D printing. Future research and improvement of this technology is expected to drive its widespread adoption.” in artificial organ engineering and cultured meat production.”
Sangmin Lee et al, A tyramine-conjugated alginate-crosslinked visible-visual biosynthetic microgel for multi-cell-loaded 3D prosthetic organs, carbohydrate polymers (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2023.120895
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