At the international iGEM academic competition in the field of synthetic biology, the joint team of students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) won the first rank (Grand Prize) in the “Overgraduate” category. The team from Munich developed an innovative process which allows intact tissue to be built with the use of a 3D printer.
The international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition encourages students from the field of synthetic biology to implement innovative ideas and to contend with their biotechnology projects. The competition, which was initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been organized by the iGEM Foundation since 2003 while the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA, hosted the event until 2014. Among the 300 finalist teams this year there were twelve from Germany, including a joint team from TUM and LMU of Munich.
The 2016 iGEM project of the year, led by Professor Arne Skerra from the Chair of Biological Chemistry at TUM and sponsored by the Research Training Group GRK2062 of LMU, examined the growing problem of insufficient donor organs in transplant medicine.
“The participating students from TUM and LMU developed an innovative method that should ultimately make it possible to manufacture intact tissue, and possibly even complete organs, with the help of a 3D printer,” said Professor Skerra explaining his current project group. “This breakthrough was only made possible by a combination of synthetic biology, molecular biotechnology, protein design, and technical engineering.”
3D Plastic Printer Becomes ‘3D Bioprinter’
One question the team asked was: What if the printed tissue could fulfill entirely new functions in the body, such as the production of therapeutic proteins? The printing of non-living biological material such as cartilage is already state-of-the-art. However, substantial obstacles still had to be overcome on the path to printing complex cell structures. “And this is exactly where this year's project began, in which live cells were printed into a biocompatible matrix using a 3D printer,” project head Skerra explained. For this purpose, a conventional plastic 3D printer was converted into a 3D bioprinter.
Layer by layer, biological tissue is created in this manner. In the past, hydrogels were used for such purposes — they provide a gelatinous scaffold in the first place and are populated with cells thereafter. However, the students from both Munich universities followed an alternative strategy because the ‘scaffold’ approach makes printing more complicated and the cells are held together in an unnatural manner. Instead, they developed a special bio-ink, a type of biochemical two-component resin for directly printing living cells in 3D.
The main component of this system is biotin, commonly known as vitamin H or B7, with which the surface of the cells was coated. The second component is Streptavidin, a protein that binds biotin and serves as the actual biochemical glue. In addition, bulky proteins were equipped with biotin groups to serve as cross-linker. “When a suspension of the cells is ‘printed’ into a concentrated solution of the protein components,” Professor Skerra explained, “the desired 3D structure forms.”
Hence, with this bio-ink a moldable tissue made of live cells is created in the biotINK tissue printer — more or less ready for transplantation. In light of these results, the team led by Professor Skerra and his doctoral students Andreas Reichert and Volker Morath at TUM, whose motto for the competition was “Let’s take bioprinting to the next level,” delivered what they had promised.
Already in 2013, a team led by Professor Skerra participated in the finals and won the second prize in the category "Undergraduates".
Prof. Dr. Arne Skerra
Technical University of Munich
Chair for Biological Chemistry
Tel: +49 8161 71 4350
Dr. Ulrich Marsch | Technische Universität München
New application for acoustics helps estimate marine life populations
16.01.2018 | University of California - San Diego
Unexpected environmental source of methane discovered
16.01.2018 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.01.2018 | Awards Funding