Cell and organ printing 2: Fusion of cell aggregates in three-dimensional gels



We recently developed a cell printer (Wilson and Boland, 2003) that enables us to place cells in positions that mimic their respective positions in organs. However, this technology was limited to the printing of two-dimensional (2D) tissue constructs. Here we describe the use of thermosensitive gels to generate sequential layers for cell printing. The ability to drop cells on previously printed successive layers provides a real opportunity for the realization of three-dimensional (3D) organ printing. Organ printing will allow us to print complex 3D organs with computer-controlled, exact placing of different cell types, by a process that can be completed in several minutes. To demonstrate the feasibility of this novel technology, we showed that cell aggregates can be placed in the sequential layers of 3D gels close enough for fusion to occur. We estimated the optimum minimal thickness of the gel that can be reproducibly generated by dropping the liquid at room temperature onto a heated substrate. Then we generated cell aggregates with the corresponding (to the minimal thickness of the gel) size to ensure a direct contact between printed cell aggregates during sequential printing cycles. Finally, we demonstrated that these closely-placed cell aggregates could fuse in two types of thermosensitive 3D gels. Taken together, these data strongly support the feasibility of the proposed novel organ-printing technology. Anat Rec Part A 272A:497–502, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.