Scientists use origami to advance 3D bioprinting technology

Prof. Ben Maoz holding the 3d origami platform. Credit: Tel Aviv University.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found a creative solution to a significant problem in 3D bioprinting by drawing inspiration from origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

This new method allows for precise placement of sensors within 3D-bioprinted tissue models, which is crucial for monitoring cell activity.

The study, published in Advanced Science, was a collaborative effort involving several departments at Tel Aviv University, including the School of Neurobiology, Biochemistry and Biophysics, the Koum Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The researchers involved were Noam Rahav, Adi Soffer, Prof. Ben Maoz, Prof. Uri Ashery, Denise Marrero, Emma Glickman, Megane Beldjilali-Labro, Yakey Yaffe, Keshet Tadmor, and Yael Leichtmann-Bardoogo.

Prof. Ben Maoz explained the challenge: “The use of 3D-bioprinters to print biological tissue models for research is already widespread.

However, the printer head cannot print tissue over sensors needed to gather information about the tissue’s inner cells without breaking them. We propose a new approach: origami.”

The innovative solution merges science with art. Using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, the researchers designed an origami-inspired structure tailored for specific tissue models.

This structure includes various sensors for monitoring the electrical activity or resistance of cells at precisely chosen locations within the tissue.

Once the computer model is created, it is used to manufacture a physical structure. This structure is then folded around the bioprinted tissue, ensuring each sensor is placed exactly where it needs to be.

The researchers named this new method the Multi-Sensor Origami Platform (MSOP).

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this new approach, the team tested it on 3D-bioprinted brain tissues.

The sensors successfully recorded neuronal electrical activity. The system is highly adaptable and can place any number and type of sensors in any location within any type of 3D-bioprinted tissue model.

It can also be used with lab-grown tissues, such as brain organoids, which are small clusters of neurons that mimic the human brain.

Prof. Maoz added, “For experiments with bioprinted brain tissue, we showed an additional benefit of our platform: the ability to add a layer that simulates the natural blood-brain barrier (BBB).

This barrier protects the brain from harmful substances in the blood but also blocks certain medications. By adding a layer of human BBB cells, we can measure their electrical resistance and determine their permeability to various drugs.”

The researchers concluded, “We created a novel method inspired by origami, enabling the insertion of sensors into precise locations within 3D-bioprinted tissue models. This allows us to detect and record cell activity and communication. This new technology represents an important step forward in biological research.”

This breakthrough could significantly enhance our ability to study complex biological tissues and improve applications in areas like cancer research, organ regeneration, and tissue engineering.