Each year, millions of people suffer from traumatic tissue damage due to cancers, congenital defects or injury. Biofabrication is the rapid 3D printing of replacement tissue and organs that are customised to the specific needs of the patient. This future of manufacturing technology is set to revolutionise regenerative medicine and deliver high quality health outcomes. The Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology group is a world class multi-disciplinary research team focused on embedding biofabrication into routine clinical use.

Based at our state-of-the-art labs at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, our research has generated new knowledge on tissue-scaffold interaction leading to next generation technology development. Our pre-clinical studies have demonstrated the success of our biofabrication approach to tissue engineering in vivo. With continued intensive research, we aim to translate this revolutionary technology from the laboratory into routine clinical use.

Injury Scanning and Scaffold Design

Patient injury data is scanned using clinical CT, MRI, 3D laser scanning or 3D reconstruction for photographs. Our software uses this data to design the shape of the tissue construct to match the specific needs of the patient. The software also provides a very high degree of control over the fabrication process.

3D Biofabrication Using Melt Electrospinning

Our proprietary biofabrication technology is designed to rapidly fabricate morphologically accurate tissue engineering scaffolds. Using very high electric fields, we construct complex shapes out of biocompatible polymer fibres that are much thinner than a human hair. The implanted FDA approved scaffolds completely dissolve as the tissue grows through, leaving the patient’s own restored tissue.

Scaffold and Tissue Analysis Technology

We have developed advanced tissue analysis techniques such as magnetic resonance micro-imaging techniques to non-invasively investigate the evolution of the nutrient and oxygen pathways deep within the tissue laden scaffolds. This helps us develop predictive models to produce scaffolds with complex architectures and integrated micro-channels for successful cell growth.

Static culture: FDA (live, green)/PI (dead, red) fluorescent stain on Day 7—Z-stack of between 40 and 60 images (a–d); DAPI (blue)/phalloidin (rhodamine, red); nuclei/ actin stain on Day 7—Maximum projection images (e–h); SEM image of cells on scaffold filament junctions on Day 7 using 20 kV and 200 magnification (i–l). 1
1 Michal Bartnikowski et al. (2014) Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 111(7): 1440-1451.

In vitro analysis of tissue engineering structures is a crucial step in understanding the biocompatibility of the scaffolds for successful implantation and tissue regeneration. Cells are seeded onto the melt electrospun scaffolds and cultured over a designated period of time. After seeding cells, cells attachment, cells proliferation and cells differentiation is observed using different assays, such as:

  • Live/Dead Assays are used to monitor the survival rate of cells within the scaffolds where live cells are stained green and the dead cells red.
  • DAPI/Phalloidin staining is used to observe cell attachment on the scaffolds. DAPI stains the cell nuclei (blue) and Phalliodin stains the cytoskeleton of the cells (red) which shows cell structural attachment.

Using advanced imaging techniques such as Confocal Microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy, the cells can be imaged and cell attachment and proliferation can be both qualitatively and quantitatively analysed

2 Reichert, J.C. et al. (2012) Science Translational Medicine, 4(141): 141re93.

The BTM Group specialises in bone tissue histology, with the capacity to process both soft and hard tissue samples using parafin, cryo and more specialised resin histology. Fresh fixed tissue are processed, embedded, sectioned, stained and imaged, all within a single core facility.

  • Hard or mineralised tissues is rapidly decalcified before processing for routine paraffin histology and immunohistochemistry.
  • Samples are embedded in resin then thin sectioned, or ground sectioned with the high precision EXAKT saw and grinder. This process better preserves tissue morphology and is ideal for bone and metallic implants (dentistry and orthopaedics).
  • Samples with labile antigens or processing sensitive components are rapidly frozen and cryosectioned prior to staining.

Using these advanced histological techniques, the results of our pre-clinical models can be evaluated to determine the quality of regenerated tissue in defect site using our 3D printed scaffolds.