Aston University’s Innovation in Bioprinting Boosted by Quantum X Bio and BBSRC Grant


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After securing a £612,176 grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Aston University is set to integrate a Quantum X bio 3D printer into its research facilities.

Developed in partnership with BICO companies CELLINK and Nanoscribe, this 3D printer will enhance the university’s biosciences research capabilities. Awarded in response to BBSRC’s ALERT 2022 funding call for mid-range equipment for biosciences research, the grant is led by Professor Rhein Parri from Aston Pharmacy School. The Quantum X bio 3D printer utilizes 2-photon polymerization (2PP) to precisely print 3D structures, enabling researchers to explore cell orientations similar to those in vital organs like the brain and liver.

“This new bioprinter will transform our ability at Aston University and the wider West Midlands to conduct 3D printing and make new discoveries in basic biological and tissue engineering research. The Quantum X bio is the first bioprinter of its kind to be installed by Nanoscribe in the UK, and will be made available to the wider research community of the Midlands Innovation Universities of Birmingham, Loughborough, Nottingham, Leicester and Warwick. Aston University is preparing a room with a controlled environment to house the printer, and associated cell culture facilities. The bioprinter is expected to be in use from April 2024,” said Professor Parri.

A Bioprinting Research Pursuit

The ambitious team of scientists from diverse fields is set to use Quantum X bio to engineer specific networks of human brain cells, known as astrocytes. This revolutionary 3D printer technology allows the study of relevant brain functions through astrocytes in a fashion that disregards outdated 2D cultures. Associates of this innovative team are Professor Roslyn Bill, Dr. Emma Shepherd, Dr. Philip Kitchen, and Dr. John Simms from the

School of Biosciences. Furthermore, Dr. Craig Russell, Nathan Suray from Aston Pharmacy School share team contributions with Paul Gretton and Professor Edik Rafailov from the

School of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

The research agenda also encompasses exploring the blood-brain barrier, constructing soft 3D prototypes of liver cells, creating a structure for eye drug delivery, and evaluating G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). These projects strive to augment the team’s comprehension of prime biological processes such as brain degeneration, hepatocellular functionality, drug transportation, and cell reaction to external triggers.

Cecilia Edebo, CEO of CELLINK believes that empowering researchers with cutting-edge bioprinting tools stimulates remarkable scientific discoveries. The recent addition of Quantum X bio to the research apparatus of Aston University serves as a monumental progress for the future of tissue engineering and drug discovery research within the United Kingdom.

Professor Parri anticipates that the Quantum X bio will foster collaboration across various scientific communities, especially in the areas of cell biology, organ-on-a-chip, and microfluidics. The integration of this technology enhances Aston University’s existing 3D printing expertise, particularly in the Advanced Prototype Facility situated within the Aston College of Engineering.

“We, along with Nanoscribe, members of the BICO group, are excited to continue supporting the research community. We look forward to witnessing the exciting results that this groundbreaking technology will undoubtedly produce,” Edebo added further.

Specifications of the Quantum X Bioprinter

Maximum print area 50 x 50 mm²
Photoresins Open system for custom materials,Hydrogels/Bioresins from Advanced BioMatrix, Cellink and BIO INX,Nanoscribe IP/IPX Photoresins (polymers),Nanoscribe acrylate, PDMS and glass photoresins (biocompatible, ISO 10993-5)
Substrates Microscope slides / microfluidic chips (3” x 1” / 76 x 26 mm2),Cell culture imaging dishes (35 mm or 50 mm),Wafers from 1” to 8” (25.4 mm to 200 mm)Glass, silicon, and further transparent, opaque materials, and coated/uncoated substrates
Printing technology Layer-by-layer 3D printing based on Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP),Upright platform with Dip-in Laser Lithography (DiLL)
Live-cell printing viability > 90 %
Maximum scan speed 6.25 m/s divided by lens magnification
Stitching-free part diameter up to 4,000 µm
Feature size control down to 100 nm

Read all the 3D Printing Industry coverage from Formnext 2023.

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