Natan Barros: I am a dedicated researcher with a passion for academic and translational research. My journey began with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, where I developed a keen interest in biochemistry and polymers. Pursuing advanced studies in biotechnology at Sao Paulo State University (UNESP), one of Brazil’s leading institutions, I delved into biomaterials science and tissue engineering during my master’s and Ph.D. There, I focused on developing functional biomaterials for drug delivery and chronic wound healing. In 2019, I embarked on a transformative experience as a visiting researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) under the guidance of Dr. Ali Khademhosseini. At UCLA, I pioneered a microfluidic in vitro platform to model skin and explored innovative areas such as 3D bioprinting of functional skeletal muscle tissues and localized melanoma treatment. My dedication to groundbreaking research continued at the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI), where I collaborated with esteemed mentors like Dr. Khademhosseini and Dr. HanJun Kim. Together, we investigated cutting-edge projects funded by NIH, including drug-eluting biomaterials for chemoembolization and bioengineered solutions for enterocutaneous fistula healing. Now, as a faculty fellow, I lead my research group at TIBI, focusing on shear-thinning hydrogels, microfluidic droplet platforms, and 3D bioprinted in vitro tissues. Natan will be speaking at the upcoming virtual event focusing on 3D printing and Microfluidics.
When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Natan: My first experience with 3D printing was in 2019 at Kadenhosseini’s lab at UCLA. I used an Inkredible + and printed GelMA and Alginate-based bioinks. It was a fantastic experience, especially with the challenges with temperature control. At that moment, most of my thinking was, “There must be many brilliant people out there to propose bioprinting entire organs to be used in transplants.”
What inspired you to start your journey?
Natan: My inspiration to start my journey in 3D bioprinting was due to a project on a 3D skin-on-a-chip model that contained a vascular layer, and such a design was not possible with simple hydrogel pipetting.
Who inspired you the most along this journey?
Natan: The person who inspired me the most was one of my mentors, Dr. Kademhosseini. He is a worldwide-known bioengineer pioneering in biofabrication.
What motivates you the most for your work?
Natan: What motivates me the most for my work is the possibility of developing biomaterials and techniques to treat patients or designing in vitro models that could help choose the best treatment for each patient.
What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Natan: The biggest obstacle in my line of work, in my opinion, is the thin line between innovation and translation. In academia, when publishing articles or submitting grant proposals, you must present innovative ideas, which requires, in many cases, designing new materials that will require long pathways for FDA approval.
What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?
Natan: The complexity of biological structures is still a challenge in 3D bioprinting. Bioprinting tissues or organs with multiple cell types and intricate vascular networks requires high control of material and cell localization. Additionally, printing resolution is key in producing intricate vascular networks. Using multiple nozzles for 3D bioprinting can help deposit different materials and cells but still lack resolution. DLP, volumetric printing, and 2PP can provide enhanced resolution; however, having multiple materials and cells in the right location in space is challenging.
If you were granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?
Natan: To have the ability to teleport, to live centuries, and to cure any disease.
What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?
Aim big and work fast to deliver results, but do not sacrifice your happiness for work.
A bad advice I believe should be ignored is when people say, “There is only one way.”
What’s your favorite book you read this year and why? Alternatively, what’s your favorite book of all time you read and why?
Natan: My favorite book is “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason. This book provides financial advice through parables set 4,000 years earlier in ancient Babylon.