Interview with Y. Shrike Zhang: 3D Bioprinting & Organoids

Dr. Y. Shrike Zhang’s research interests include 3D bioprinting, organ-on-a-chip, biomaterials, regenerative engineering, and bioanalysis. He is an author of >265 peer-reviewed publications with citations of ~20,000 and an h-index of 70. His scientific contributions have been recognized by over 40 regional, national and international awards. Dr. Zhang is a speaker at our upcoming event focusing on 3D Biofabrication Musculoskeletal Tissue and they also spoke at our prior event, 3D Bioprinting and Organoids.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing?

Zhang: It was the use of an Organovo bioprinter to draw biomaterial patterns – it was a great experience – I used to manually manufacture scaffolds for years and the ability to automate the fabrication process is just amazing.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D Bioprinting?

Zhang: Again the ability to really place the biofabrication into automation, is super exciting. From then on, we have been attempting to push the technology boundaries of 3D bioprinting. Things that we work on span from hardware/software engineering in building our own better bioprinters to bioink developments and all the way to downstream applications.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey?

Zhang: Prof. Ali Khademhosseini who I worked with back years ago as a research fellow, certainly brought me into the area of 3D bioprinting. I have always been very much appreciative of that. Along with the journal the entire community has always been inspiring for us to continue our innovations in this field.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work? 

Zhang: The foreseeable future of fully developed bioprinters that would allow truly functional human tissue fabrication.

Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions? 

Zhang: Whenever a new bioprinter/bioprinting technique is innovated, or a bioink is designed, it is challenging to make them work the way that we want. Fortunately, the lab is composed of a highly interdisciplinary team to tackle all these obstacles.

Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D bioprinting? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Zhang: My view is scalability. Most of the current 3D bioprinting technologies demonstrated so far are restricted on the laboratory scale producing tissues at smaller sizes. The ability to scale this up would be truly important – a problem associated with the resolution, speed, and interplays of many parameters. We are starting to see combinatory 3D bioprinting techniques in an attempt to address such a challenge already.

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be? 

Zhang: I probably do not have three separate wishes but an ultimate wish is a bioprinter that can do all the jobs but simply press a button, like some of the newer innovations that automate the cooking processes.

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore? 

Zhang: Good questions. I’d say that they should follow their hearts and do what interests them most – there are so many things that still need to do in the broad field of 3D bioprinting given that the field is still in its relative early phase. If they do so I’d not anticipate bad advice that they cannot figure out by themselves – hard to generalize.

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