The Lattice #20: October 7th, 2019

About the Lattice above: This week’s lattice comes from one of the articles in our Editorial Feature section, a new addition to The Lattice newsletter where we take a deeper look at the trends, technologies, and innovations underpinning some of the articles we’re reading and sharing each week.

The Lattice is 3DHEALS weekly recap of the latest developments, expert insights, upcoming events in the world of healthcare 3D printing.

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Welcome to the latest edition of The Lattice, 3DHEALS weekly digest of some of the most exciting and intriguing developments from the world of healthcare 3D printing and bioprinting. We’ve changed our format a little bit since last week, focusing more on discussing how the content we share fit into the larger framework of innovation in medicine and 3D printing, truly a latticework of ideas brought together. This week, we’re focusing on the potential impact 3D printing will have on addressing some of our most challenging biomechanical problems.

A Matter of Mechanics

Tissue mechanics may be one of the more underappreciated aspects of biomedicine. The unique combination of strength and elasticity in the skin is largely why we can trust sutures will stay in place after we close a wound, and the jelly donut-like structure of vertebral discs lets us walk around each day without experiencing excruciating pain.

For all of our advancements in medical devices and materials, though, we still have difficulty matching the complex and often heterogeneous mechanical environment of the human body. Titanium implants, while strong, are also much stiffer than bone and can cause detrimental stress shielding, even when implanted correctly. Artificial blood vessels have made significant advances in preventing clot formation, but they still lack the mechanical responsiveness of natural vessels which is so crucial to advancing blood through arterioles.

3D printing has been uniquely situated among manufacturing technologies to help address many of these issues, however, it wasn’t until recently that computational and materials advancements made it possible for printing systems to actually meet these needs. Materials like titanium, which we have traditionally regarded in its bulk form, can take on dramatically different properties when printed with macro- and microscopic patterning, as seen in this week’s lattice graphic, as well as a recent announcement from Johnson & Johnson about their improved titanium spacer for spinal fusion procedures. Our Expert Corner article by professor Alshakim Nelson touches upon this concept as well, discussing an innovative new approach to produce tubular hydrogel constructs, one of the most sought-after structures in the world of bioprinting. The printing approaches used to produce these constructs to-date have frequently been stymied by poorly aligned tissues and hydrogels that aren’t structurally sound when printed as long thin structures. Using a shear-thinning hydrogel and a new deposition approach, however, Al and his team have successfully produced structures that look a lot more like what we have in our bodies.

While patterning single materials can unlock many new functions and properties (a topic that’s very close to my heart), there are cases where the gradient of mechanical properties is just too great for a single material to achieve. Here as well, 3D printing unlocks fabrication approaches that would be extremely difficult if not impossible to reproduce with other techniques. One of the biggest challenges in the fields of tissue engineering and bioprinting has been to create tissues and structures that are as mechanically and functionally heterogeneous as those that exist naturally in our bodies. Articular cartilage, for example, must provide both a soft cushion, as well as tightly integrated with the bone, a property that is enabled by a gradient region where the tissue transitions from soft to hard. Recently, however, a group of scientists from Lehigh University has developed a bioprinting method that uses spatially organized cues to locally control cell behavior within a single material construct. The result is a continuous scaffold containing two distinct tissues, just like the one we have naturally in our knees.

These problems aren’t solved yet, though. As our modeling and manufacturing software improves, the next generation of printing hardware will also have to be developed to take full advantage of our new computational capacity. Furthermore, new biological challenges will emerge as we begin to print multi-tissue constructs that will require different culturing and maintenance regimes than those we currently have experience with. The next generation of healthcare 3D printing technologies probably won’t be full-on organ replacements, but they will be structures and materials that look a lot more like their biological counterparts.

Joe Borrello
co-Editor, The Lattice
Twitter/Instagram: @3DHELAS #TheLattice


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Expert Corner This Week

3D Printing Coaxial Nozzles Enabling Rapid Fabrication of Biofunctional Hydrogel Conduits

by Professor Alshakim Nelson (University of Washington)

Read the full article here.

Related Articles: 

Interview: Professor Alshakim Nelson, Chemistry, University of Washington

Control your 3D Bioprinting Hydrogels

Cancer: What 3D Printing (Bioprinting) Can do For Oncological Care

Engineering Vasculatures: Interview with Dr. Jordan Miller, Volumetric


Expert Corner aims to promote first-person narratives from innovators and field experts themselves to educate and inspire the 3DHEALS community. Contribute to Expert Corner


Useful Stuff

Practical guides, tools, and reports from the healthcare and manufacturing sectors.

How to know if your 3D printing venture is a business or a hobby: two metrics to focus on for success

From Y Combinator CEO and Partner, Michael Seibel: How to Cold Email Investors

How to have a successful career – 21 lessons on life

From the 3DHEALS educational video archive: Creating a 3D printable bone model using free software

The winner of this week’s (9/28-10/4/19) 3DHEALS’ Instagram share is a video from Affordable3D, a Calgary based 3D Design and Printing company. #Vote with your #Likes on our Instagram account and winners will be announced weekly. Share your best photos/videos with us @3dheals on Instagram today. 

Academic Updates

Collection of weekly discoveries in R&D world relevant to 3DHEALS 

Trying to read every published article in healthcare 3D printing and bioprinting is an ambitious feat. The Lattice Editorial team selected a few articles published in various domains ranging from pharmacology, medical 3D printing, bioprinting, to material science relevant to the 3DHEALS audience. Of the batch of articles from last week, Japan, Australia, China, and the USA dominated the theme. I am continuing to see more diverse and creative use of 3D printing for pre-surgical planning and more application in radiation therapy. In terms of bioprinting, two articles on bioprinting of neuronal tissue were published, which reminded me of an earlier Expert Corner article by Dr. Stephanie Willerth.  In the world of material science, the word “4D printing” seems to surface more and more. We included several publications on this subject including one by MIT. Just for fun, we also threw in an article from Singapore discussing the deep science on how to 3D printing chocolate. (Do you know it is called Ci3DP? 😊 Finally, we included an article on VR/AR and its use in treating schizophrenia. Unfortunately, the article was written in Hungarian, but we thought the concept was intriguing. That said, the interested readers can read a prior Expert Corner blog on the same subject but in a different application (Cardiology). 

Community Updates

Briefings and developments from 3DHEALS chapters around the world.

Taipei (Community Manager: Dr. Kua-Lin Chen) We have exciting news to share with the 3DHEALS community. The presenter (Dr. Yeh and Dr.Chen) from 3DHeals Taipei 2018, the group doing 3D-printed protector for Transoral Endoscopic Thyroidectomy, their paper got accepted and published just days ago. Read more about this publication here. 

Boston (Community Manager: Jess Charlap
Our Boston community is looking for a new community manager as one of our managers, Gerald, is moving to Cleveland. If you’re based in the Boston area and interested in getting involved in the local biotech, manufacturing, and healthcare innovation communities, we encourage you to apply to fill the position! The community manager application can be found here

Events & Opportunities

Upcoming events from the 3DHEALS community and beyond.

Thursday, 10/17 (Cleveland, Ohio) –  6:00-8:30 PM. After our first successful event (thanks to our community manager Dr. Justin Baker), we are ready for the second 3DHEALS community event in Cleveland, Ohio this October. Thanks to our venue sponsor Team NEO(Team NEO is a business development organization focused on accelerating economic growth and job creation throughout the 18 counties of Northeast Ohio.)

Wednesday, 10/30 (Global/Online) – 3DHEALS is hosting our next #Pitch3D event featuring some of the most exciting startups working in 3D and healthcare today. If you think that applies to you, sign up to pitch today!

Check out some of our partners’ upcoming event below, and lots of other upcoming events here:

October 10th (San Francisco) UCSF Digital Health Award The live event, held in San Francisco on October 10, 2019, will be live-streamed and is the first of its kind patient and clinician oriented awards event.

October 11-13 (San Francisco) MIT Hacking Medicine and the UCSF Rosenman Institute bring the MIT Grand Hack to San Francisco for a weekend to brainstorm and build innovative healthcare solutions with hundreds of like-minded engineers, clinicians, designers, developers and business people.

Tuesday, October 15 (New York) Our very own Joe Borrello is helping organize the half-day Careers and Connections conference at Mount Sinai, focused on connecting students in the life sciences with professionals from industry, through both formal talks and panel discussions, as well as an informal networking reception. Anyone interested in connecting with the New York life science innovation ecosystem is encouraged to attend!

October 20-22 (Columbus, OH)Biofabrication 2019, the International Society for Biofabrication’s annual meeting, is being held in Columbus, Ohio and will bring together scientists, engineers, regulatory specialists, industry participants, and clinical investigators from around the world to present and share their recent discoveries, research direction, and views on the current problems and opportunities in the exciting field of biofabrication.

Thursday, 11/7 (Irvine, CA) 3DP4ME, a non-profit focused on providing access to 3D-printed ear molds for hearing aids to refugees and low-income clients, is holding their second annual fundraiser at the Cove in UC Irvine’s Beall Applied Innovation Facility. The celebration will feature Dr. Brian Fligor, Harvard audiologist and 3DP4ME advisor, who will be giving a live demonstration of the new 3D Ear Scanner by Lantos Technologies.

Friday, 11/8 (Boston) The Boston Design Museum looks at 3D printing muscle at their November Design Museum Mornings event, featuring Dr. Indranil Sinha from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 3DHEALS members can us promo code 3dheals50 for a 50% discount on registration.

Wednesday, 11/13 (Vancouver) The Victoria Hand Project and the Centre for Biomedical Research will host the November VILS meeting at UVic, where they will showcase the 3D printing capabilities at the University of Victoria.

Thursday & Friday, 11/14-15 (San Francisco)The Cultured Meat Symposiumreturns this November 14-15. Industry leaders in the traditional meat and cell-based meat sectors will come together for future-defining presentations, panels, and workshops. Use discount code 3DHEALS20 for 20% off General and VIP tickets!

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