A team of scientists from the University of Maryland and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a new bioengineered, synthetic, bioprinted human cell.
The team claims their work could help scientists develop a bioengineering tool for human cells that could eventually become a “universal” tool to create synthetic tissues and organs.
The research, reported in the journal Science, is part of a broader effort to develop a better way to design and build bioprocessing machines.
It comes after a group of scientists in the U.S. created a synthetic cell in 2015 that could become the template for creating tissue and organs from human cells.
The scientists had hoped to replicate the cell’s genetic code and build it into a machine, but they realized it would take a lot of time and money.
“There’s a huge amount of research and investment going into building these machines,” said graduate student and lead author Y.C. Wang, a professor of biological engineering and a professor in the Department of Engineering and Applied Science at the university.
“It’s just a matter of time before we start getting a machine that can do this, and the cost is really, really prohibitive.”
Wang’s team has been developing their own hybrid cell that can make proteins, a process that uses the transfer of chemical bonds between two living cells to form a synthetic structure.
The new cell, created using the new genetic code, is about the size of a postage stamp and was designed to produce proteins and other molecules.
The researchers hope to build the cell into a bioreactor that can process proteins.
This is an example of a bioprinter.
Credit: University of Michigan team A bioprinter that can synthesize proteins and convert them into chemicals, such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Bioprinters use the transfer between two cells to create a new material that can then be used to make chemicals and other products.
“We’re looking at ways of making bioproducts that can produce materials for biomedical applications and to build new products that are easier to produce,” Wang said.
“This is a really exciting and exciting time.”
The biopriinter is a machine called a bioplasmic, which refers to a device that uses a complex mixture of DNA and proteins to create the material.
The bioplasic is a device like the bioreceptor or a prosthetic limb, but the bioprotects are more advanced, meaning they can produce more complex structures, Wang said, and are much more versatile.
Wang and his team designed the bioplasma using a technology called a “bioprecipitate.”
The process involves creating a synthetic bioprotein by combining DNA with proteins, creating a complex structure and then using that structure to create new molecules.
Wang said this process would be very similar to the process that allows scientists to make new organs.
“The bioplastic is the same way,” he said.
This composite bioprop is about two to four nanometers in size.
The resulting material is about 20,000 times smaller than the original material.
Credit : University of Miami team Wang and co-author Jing Li, a graduate student in the lab, said the biomechanical complexity of the new bioprobe allows the researchers to control the number of bioprivates produced, or the number that can be made simultaneously.
The process could eventually be used for making human tissues, organs, and other devices, Wang added.
He said the process could be used in other bioengineering fields such as bioprotection, to build biomaterials that are better for human health.
The paper describing the research is titled “Genetic engineering: A novel approach for creating bioengineers,” and is available online.
“Our work is very exciting because it opens up a whole new pathway of research, and it opens a whole lot of possibilities,” Wang added, adding that his team is still in the research phase.
He noted that his group’s work could be applied to building bioengineering machines, which could lead to better ways of building machines.
“If we can make the right materials, we can create these devices that can perform all kinds of functions that we don’t have now,” he added.
The work is described in the Feb. 23 issue of Science.
A version of this article first appeared on the university’s website.