Bioprinting is printing with biological materials. Think of it as 3D printing, but with squishier ingredients. There’s a lot of work being done at research labs and big companies like Organovo on 3D printing of human tissues for drug testing, or even of whole human organs for transplantation. But the basic underlying technologies are surprisingly accessible: it’s all based on inkjet printing or 3D printing—technologies that are readily available to the DIY scientist.
When we first opened the doors on the BioCurious lab in Sunnyvale, we wanted to pick a couple of community projects around which we could build a critical mass—ideally projects that weren’t purely limited to the wetlab, so we could have newcomers walk in the door and start participating right away. Bioprinting seemed to fit the bill. Over the course of about a year, meeting once a week with a constantly changing set of participants, we actually managed to put together a rudimentary printer that could print E. coli cells onto an agar plate using an XY platform built from parts scavenged from old CD drives and an inkjet printhead. And it actually worked the first time around! We are able to print a few lines of
BioCurious" in E. coli expressing Green Fluorescent Protein.