Ghent start-up creates 'bio-ink' to make 3D printing of living organs possible

Ghent-based start-up Bio Inx, a spin-off company of Ghent University, is making 3D printing of living cells possible. The company does this by using sophisticated 'bio-inks', which CEO Jasper Van Hoorick describes as the 'mortar' in the process of building artificial organs. It is an indispensable component in a remarkable biotechnological evolution, which earned the company the title of East Flanders 'Starter of the Year'.

"Compare it to bricklaying a wall", Van Hoorick describes the process. "The cells are the bricks, but to hold them together and shape the building, you need mortar. Our bio-inks are that mortar." To make all this possible, the company developed a type of gel that allows the cells to survive the "printing" process.

"To make 3D prints with living cells, you need a lot of specialised material: living cells, a 3D printer and bio-inks. But you can't be the best at everything."

The Ghent University spin-off, founded last year, gathers the necessary knowledge and know-how at the 'Tech Lane Ghent' science Park in Zwijnaarde. "To make 3D prints with living cells, you need a lot of specialised material: living cells, a 3D printer and bio-inks. But you can't be the best at everything. For each component, there are highly specialised companies operating in the market," Van Hoorick explains the company's focus on bio-inks.

3D printing of organs has the potential to become an alternative to lab animals in drug and cosmetics testing. For example, microscopically small organs such as miniature brains can be printed on a chip to test the effects of cancer drugs. This way, scientists can test medicines faster and cheaper to accelerate cancer research.

In the future, it may become possible to print an entirely new organ, such as a liver, based on the patient's own cells. This could help solve the problem of post-transplant rejection or the shortage of donor organs.

The 'Starter of the Year' title is awarded annually by the Flemish entrepreneurs' association Unizo.



#FlandersNewsService | 'The 'Tech Lane Ghent' science Park in Zwijnaarde, Ghent © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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