From Academia: Bioprinted Cancer Models, Microprinted Imaging Probe, 3DTech for Congenital Heart Disease

“From Academia” feature recent, relevant, close to commercialization academic publications in the space of healthcare 3D printing, bioprinting, and related emerging technologies. 

Email: Rance Tino ( if you want to pen an Expert Corner blog for us or want to share relevant academic publications with us.

3D bioprinting for reconstituting the cancer microenvironment

– Authored by Pallab Datta, Madhuri Dey, Zaman Ataie, Derya Unutmaz & Ibrahim T. Ozbolat. Nature npj Precision Oncology, 27 July 2020

Integration of microfluidic devices with 3D bioprinted organ-on-a-chip models. (a) 3D printing of PDMS-based microfluidic chip (reproduced/adapted with permission from ref. 66). (b) Schematic representation of the microfluidic biopsy application of 3D printed conformal chips for isolating biomarkers from the organ cortex (scale bar, 500 μm) (reproduced/adapted with permission from Singh et al.). Copyright.  Nature npj Precision Oncology 


The cancer microenvironment is known for its complexity, both in its content as well as its dynamic nature, which is difficult to study using two-dimensional (2D) cell culture models. Several advances in tissue engineering have allowed more physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) in vitro cancer models, such as spheroid cultures, biopolymer scaffolds, and cancer-on-a-chip devices. Although these models serve as powerful tools for dissecting the roles of various biochemical and biophysical cues in carcinoma initiation and progression, they lack the ability to control the organization of multiple cell types in a complex dynamic 3D architecture. By virtue of its ability to precisely define perfusable networks and position of various cell types in a high-throughput manner, 3D bioprinting has the potential to more closely recapitulate the cancer microenvironment, relative to current methods. In this review, we discuss the applications of 3D bioprinting in mimicking cancer microenvironment, their use in immunotherapy as prescreening tools, and an overview of current bioprinted cancer models.

Ultrathin monolithic 3D printed optical coherence tomography endoscopy for preclinical and clinical use

– Authored by Jiawen Li, Simon Thiele, Bryden C. Quirk, Rodney W. Kirk, Johan W. Verjans, Emma Akers, Christina A. Bursill, Stephen J. Nicholls, Alois M. Herkommer, Harald Giessen & Robert A. McLaughlin. Nature Light: Science & Applications, 20 July 2020

freeform total internal reflection (TIR) mirror on the tip of the no-core fiber that is fusion spliced onto the light-guiding single-mode fiber. c Optical design of the system with light exiting the single-mode fiber, expanding in the no-core fiber, being reflected and phase-shaped at the freeform mirror, passing the catheter sheath, and focusing on the artery tissue. d Photo of the 3D printed OCT endoscope, which rotates and is pulled back to accomplish full 3D OCT scanning. Copyright. Nature Light: Science & Applications 


Preclinical and clinical diagnostics increasingly rely on techniques to visualize internal organs at high resolution via endoscopes. Miniaturized endoscopic probes are necessary for imaging small luminal or delicate organs without causing trauma to the tissue. However, current fabrication methods limit the imaging performance of highly miniaturized probes, restricting their widespread application. To overcome this limitation, we developed a novel ultrathin probe fabrication technique that utilizes 3D microprinting to reliably create side-facing freeform micro-optics (<130 µm diameter) on single-mode fibers. Using this technique, we built a fully functional ultrathin aberration-corrected optical coherence tomography probe. This is the smallest freeform 3D imaging probe yet reported, with a diameter of 0.457 mm, including the catheter sheath. We demonstrated image quality and mechanical flexibility by imaging atherosclerotic human and mouse arteries. The ability to provide microstructural information with the smallest optical coherence tomography catheter opens a gateway for novel minimally invasive applications in disease.

Advanced Medical Use of Three-Dimensional Imaging in Congenital Heart Disease: Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality, and Three-Dimensional Printing

– Authored by Hyun Woo Goo, Sang Joon Park, and Shi-Joon Yoo. Korean Journal of Radiology. 8 January 2020. 

Workflow of advanced visualization technology. Segmented and refined 3D model can be used not only for augmented reality, virtual reality, and interactive web or mobile 3D displays but also for 3D printing. STL = Standard Tessellation Language. Copyright Korean Journal of Radiology 


Three-dimensional (3D) imaging and image reconstruction play a prominent role in the diagnosis, treatment planning, and post-therapeutic monitoring of patients with congenital heart disease. More interactive and realistic medical experiences take advantage of advanced visualization techniques like augmented, mixed, and virtual reality. Further, 3D printing is now used in medicine. All these technologies improve the understanding of the complex morphologies of congenital heart disease. In this review article, we describe the technical advantages and disadvantages of various advanced visualization techniques and their medical applications in the field of congenital heart disease. In addition, unresolved issues and future perspectives of these evolving techniques are described.

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