Scientists Print Cells with Normal Inkjet PrinterScientists have managed to print cells using nothing more than a standard household inkjet printer. And what’s more, it turns out that printing cells has an almost magical effect on them that makes the technique useful outside of just placing cells where you want them.
Scientists at Clemson University realized that the act of printing a living cell, a practice that has become fairly common in the more innovative labs, causes a disruption in the membrane of the cell. This disruption means that molecules and other things usually too big to go through the membrane can be slid through with little trouble.
One of the difficulties in working with cells is actually modifying them. If you rupture the cell membrane too severely, the cell stops functioning. Scientists must walk a fine (and expensive, and time consuming) line to actually get new things inside of cells for experiments.
But printing out of a fairly standard inkjet printer makes the entire process easy. Just make a substrate of the material you want in the cell and print onto it. The research team behind the project demonstrated this by placing fluorescent molecules inside the cells en masse. After all, that is the vein of their actual research. Said Dr Delphine Dean, the author of the paper:
"We are actually interested in the cell mechanics of compressed cells. This method allows us to push on the cells and watch the response easily. We are interested in cardiovascular cells, and how they respond to mechanical force."All the team had to do to modify the printer was remove the paper feeder and replace the ink cartridge with a solution of cells.
This technique could revolutionize how we deal with cells. Suddenly we now have a cheap and easy way not only to position cells how we want, but to populate them with whatever we want with extreme precision. This might just be the first step towards cheap biotechnology, folks.