Prof. Colin McGuckin: 3D Bioprinting Model for Skin, CTIBIOTECH

Colin McGuckin was the UK’s first Full Professor of Regenerative Medicine, before Founding CTIBIOTECH to create not only organ-based models for drug screening and efficacy testing, but also to create cell and organ therapies of the future. Coming from a background of Hematology / Oncology his work expanded in the 1990’s to stem cells and his academic group were first in the world to create neural and hepatic tissues from adult stem cells. Now at CTIBIOTECH they are leaders in 3D bioprinting models of the human body, with a lot of success in complex skin, tumors and liver systems. Professor McGuckin will be presenting in the upcoming 3D Bioprinting for Skin event.

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

Colin: Many years ago when color inkjets printing appeared I was thinking “wouldn’t it be cool to do that with cells” – seems I was not the only one thinking it! When plastic printing appeared, I was totally convinced that cells were soon to follow.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey 3D bioprinting/biofabrication?

Colin: I have been making 3D models of human tissues for 30 years, the first being of the bone marrow to find out why bone marrow stem cells were growing out of control in blood diseases. After that we moved to bioreactors designed at NASA, and then the natural way forward from that was 3D bioprinting. 

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey?

Colin: Chuck Hull who invented workable 3D printing is inspirational for getting it to work – not just once, but over and over again – and this is real technology, not just one-off research to write a journal paper – this was game-changing.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work? 

Colin: It motivates me enormously to take something thrown away from human surgery or biopsies and make them useful again. Life creating life. 

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

Colin: Putting the chessboard together is not easy – people think you can buy a 3D Bioprinter and make an organ. Sure, the printer is part of the process, but the hardest part is certainly getting the cells in the right way to grow – and it is much harder than it seems.

Jenny: What do you think is biggest challenge in bioprinting?

Colin: Vascularization of bioprinted models is the main limitation to future success. Blood vessels allow you to make bigger more interesting tissues, but too much, or then you have no control. How the human body controls growth is amazing but complex. A Nobel prize to the scientist who can truly control this in the lab! 

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes, what would they be? 

Colin: A. Never get tired. B. Connect our neural prints to the human system. C. Telepathy, so I can transfer my knowledge quicker to the younger generation.

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

Colin: My advice to students – as it has always been – I come from a tiny place in Ireland, you can go anywhere too, there are no global limits anymore. Never give up, never stop believing, and when people show you who they really are – believe them. If it feels bad, it probably is. Move to what feels right.

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