Home Research & Education Israeli researchers use origami to improve 3D bioprinting

Israeli researchers use origami to improve 3D bioprinting

Researchers at Tel Aviv University drew on the principles of origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, to develop an original and innovative solution to a problem that has been a concern for researchers worldwide: the positioning of sensors in 3D biologically printed tissue models.

The study was a joint effort of researchers from various units at Tel Aviv University: the School of Neurobiology, Biochemistry and Biophysics, the Koum Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Sagol Center for Regenerative Medicine, the Sagol School of Neuroscience and the Drimmer-Fischler Family Stem Cell Core Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine. The researchers include Noam Rahav, Adi Soffer, Prof. Ben Maoz, Prof. Uri Ashery, Denise Marrero, Emma Glickman, Megane Beldjilali-Labro, Yakey Yaffe, Keshet Tadmor and Yael Leichtmann-Bardoogo. The results were published in the renowned journal Advanced Science.

Prof. Maoz explains: “The use of 3D-bioprinters to print biological tissue models for research is already widespread. In existing technologies, the printer head moves back and forth, printing layer upon layer of the required tissue. This method, however, has a significant drawback: The tissue cannot be bioprinted over a set of sensors needed to provide information about its inner cells, because in the process of printing the printer head breaks the sensors. We propose a new approach to the complex problem: origami”.

The innovation is based on an original synergy between science and art. Using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, the researchers design a multisensory structure specially adapted to a specific tissue model and inspired by origami. This structure integrates various sensors to monitor the electrical activity or resistance of cells at precisely chosen positions within the tissue. The computer model is used to create a physical structure that is then folded around the bio-printed tissue so that each sensor is placed at its predefined position within the tissue. The TAU team has named their new platform MSOP – Multi-Sensor Origami Platform.

Prof. Maoz adds: “For experiments with bioprinted brain tissue, we demonstrated an additional advantage of our platform: the option for adding a layer that simulates the natural blood-brain barrier (BBB) – a cell layer protecting the brain from undesirable substances carried in the blood, which unfortunately also blocks certain medications intended for brain diseases. The layer we add consists of human BBB cells, enabling us to measure their electrical resistance which indicates their permeability to various medications”.

The effectiveness of the new method was demonstrated on 3D bio-printed brain tissue, with the sensors used recording the neuronal electrical activity.

The researchers summarize: “In this study, we created an ‘out-of-the-box’ synergy between scientific research and art. We developed a novel method inspired by origami paper folding, enabling the insertion of sensors into precisely predefined locations within 3D-bioprinted tissue models, to detect and record cell activity and communication between cells. This new technology is an important step forward for biological research”.

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