Nanotechnology

3D printing technology breakthrough even for DNA and protein

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April 12, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting is a useful technique that has been widely used in our lives, from reconstructive plastic surgery to the production of artificial organs. However, many biopolymers, such as nucleic acids, polysaccharides and proteins, cannot be easily constructed into the desired 3D shapes at the submicron or nanoscale due to their inherent rheological and structural properties. Can we actually achieve a free-form, high-resolution arrangement of biomolecules using 3D printing technology?

The research team from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at POSTECH was led by Professor Seung Soo Oh, Emeritus Professor Jung Ho Je, Dr. Moon-Jung Yong, and Ph.D. candidates Un Yang and Byunghwa Kang have developed a breakthrough 3D printing technology that directly enables the writing and precise patterning of various biopolymers with full mechanical stability and functional integrity.

Their findings have been published in Advanced Science (“Type-Independent 3D Writing and Nano-Patterning of Enclosed Biopolymers”). 3D printing of biopolymers (nucleic acids, polysaccharides, proteins) with nanoscale resolution 3D printing of biopolymers (nucleic acids, polysaccharides, proteins) with nanoscale resolution. (Image: POSTECH)

The research team has presented a new 3D printing strategy that preserves the folding structures and molecular functions of various biopolymers by sequentially confining, evaporating, and condensing solutions containing the biopolymers.

Regardless of the biopolymer type, this technique can produce 3D biopolymer architectures with precisely controlled sizes and geometries at submicron resolution.

In addition, it enables the printed biopolymer to exhibit its own desired function, thereby achieving point-to-point localization of spatiotemporal biofunctions, including molecular recognition and catalytic reactions.

This 3D printing technique can be applied in various fields by utilizing the principle that at the molecular level, evaporation and solidification of pure solutions containing biopolymers occur regardless of the type of biopolymer. It is also very advantageous that this molding process does not cause damage or deformation to the biopolymer, due to the mild processing environment under room temperature and ambient air without any additives. Biopolymer 3D nano pattern Biopolymer 3D nano pattern. The new printing technology enables the construction of precise 3D patterns using a variety of biopolymers such as nucleic acids, polysaccharides and proteins in the form of pillar-shaped and curved nanowires. (Image: POSTECH)

This breakthrough is expected to have broad applications in the development of materials that can analyze and mimic micro-scale biological tissues. It can also be applied to manufacture artificial cells and tissues that can function properly in a biological environment, as well as to produce biochips. The researchers now plan to develop next-generation cell-mimicking device printing methods for practical diagnostics and drug development.

“The importance of this research lies in proving for the first time the possibility of printing 100% functionally and structurally active biopolymers in 3D ultrafine structures,” emphasized Professor Seung Soo Oh, team leader of POSTECH. Professor Emeritus Jung Ho Je commented, “This has the potential to expand the printing of a wide range of materials with diverse optical and electrical properties, including complex materials such as quantum dots and carbon nanotubes.”



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