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Title:Biological building blocks for 3D printed cellular systems
Author(s):Cvetkovic, Caroline
Director of Research:Bashir, Rashid
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bashir, Rashid
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gillette, Martha; Kong, Hyunjoon; Saif, Taher A.
Department / Program:Bioengineering
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):3D printing
Tissue engineering
Skeletal muscle
Cellular systems
Biological machines
Soft robotics
Abstract:Advancements in the fields of tissue engineering, biomaterials, additive manufacturing, synthetic and systems biology, data acquisition, and nanotechnology have provided 21st-century biomedical engineers with an extensive toolbox of techniques, materials, and resources. These “building blocks” could include biological materials (such as cells, tissues, and proteins), biomaterials (bio-inert, -instructive, -compatible, or -degradable), soluble factors (growth factors or small molecules), and external signals (electrical, chemical, or mechanical). “Forward engineering” attempts to integrate these building blocks in different ways to yield novel systems and machines that, by promoting new relationships and interactions among their individual components, are greater than the sum of their parts. Drawing from an extensive reserve of parts and specifications, these bio-integrated forward-engineered cellular machines and systems could acquire the ability to sense, process signals, and produce force, and could also contain a countless array of applications in drug screening and delivery, programmable tissue engineering, and biomimetic machine design. An intuitive demonstration of a biological machine is one that can produce motion in response to controllable external signaling. In contrast to traditional machines that use external energy to produce an output, muscle cells can be fueled by glucose and other biomolecules. While cardiac cell driven biological actuators have been demonstrated, the requirements of these machines to respond to stimuli and exhibit controlled movement merit the use of skeletal muscle, the primary generator of actuation in animals, as a contractile power source. Here, we report the development of 3D printed hydrogel “bio-bots” powered by the actuation of an engineered mammalian skeletal muscle strip to result in net locomotion of the bio-bot upon applied electrical stimulation. The muscle strips were composed of differentiated skeletal myofibers in a matrix of natural proteins, including fibrin, that provide physical support and cues to the cells as an engineered basement membrane. The hierarchical organization, modularity, and scalable nature of mature skeletal muscle fibers (which can be combined in parallel to increase force production, for example), lends itself to “building with biology.” Few systems have shown net movement from an autonomous, freestanding biological machine composed of skeletal muscle, and even fewer have attempted to incorporate multiple cell types for greater functionality. Modular and flexible platforms for fabrication of such multi-cellular modules and their characterization have been lacking. We also present a modular heterotypic cellular system, made up of multi-layered tissue rings containing integrated skeletal muscle and motor neurons embedded in an extracellular matrix. Site-specific innervation of a group of muscle fibers in the multi-layered tissue rings allowed for muscle contraction via chemical stimulation of motor neurons with glutamate, a major excitatory mammalian neurotransmitter, with the frequency of contraction increasing with glutamate concentration. The addition of the nicotinic receptor antagonist tubocurarine chloride halted the contractions, indicating that muscle contraction was motor neuron-induced. We also present a thorough characterization and optimization of a co-culture system that harnesses the potential of engineered skeletal muscle tissue as the actuating component in a biological machine through the incorporation of motor neurons, and creates an environment that is amenable to both cell types and prime for functional neuromuscular formation. With a bio-fabricated system permitting controllable mechanical and geometric attributes on a range of length scales, our novel engineered cellular system can be utilized for easier integration of other modular “building blocks” in living cellular and biological machines. We are poised to design the next generation of complex biological machines with controllable function, specific life expectancy, and greater consistency. In the future, we envision that this system can be used for applications beyond bio-robotics and muscular actuators; as a functioning heterotypic co-culture, the muscle- neuron arrangement is also a highly relevant machine for the study of neuromuscular diseases and related drug toxicity studies. These results could prove useful for the study of disease-specific models, treatments of myopathies such as muscular dystrophy, and tissue engineering applications.
Issue Date:2017-01-10
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Caroline Elizabeth Cvetkovic
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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