New Frontier For 3D Printing: Developed Soft Materials That Repair Themselves (Material Science)

The scientific community is concentrating many studies on the multiple applications of hydrogels , polymeric materials containing large quantities of water, potentially capable of reproducing the characteristics of biological tissues. This aspect is of particular importance in the field of regenerative medicine , which has long recognized and is using the potential of these materials. In order to be effectively used to replace organic tissues, hydrogels must meet two fundamental requirements: they must have a high geometric complexity and be able to self-repair themselves following damage, just like living tissues.

The development of these materials can now be easier and cheaper thanks to the use of 3D printing: the researchers of the MP4MNT (Materials and Processing for Micro and Nanotechnologies) team of the Department of Applied Science and Technology of the Politecnico , coordinated by Professor Fabrizio Pirri , have demonstrated for the first time the possibility of manufacturing hydrogels with complex architectures that can self-repair following a tear thanks to light-activated 3D printing . The research was published by the prestigious journal Nature Communication in an article entitled “3D-printed self-healing hydrogels via Digital Light Processing” ( DOI 10.1038 / s41467-021-22802-z)

Self-healing of complex geometries© Politecnico di Torino

In reality, hydrogels with self-healing or modelable properties in complex architectures through 3D printing had already been created in the laboratory, but in this case it is a solution that encompasses both characteristics, namely the complexity of the architecture and the ability to regenerate afterwards. of damage.

Furthermore, the hydrogel was made using materials available on the market, processed by a commercial printer , thus making the proposed approach extremely flexible and potentially applicable everywhere, with new development possibilities both in the biomedical field and in that of soft-robotics.

The research was developed as part of the HYDROPRINT3D doctoral project, funded by the Compagnia di San Paolo from the “Joint Projects with Top University” initiative and conducted by the doctoral student Matteo Caprioli , under the supervision of DISAT researcher Ignazio Roppolo , in collaboration with the research group of Professor Magdassi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).

“For several years – says Ignazio Roppolo – within the MP4MNT group a research unit has been created, coordinated by me and Dr. Annalisa Ch Japan, which is specifically concerned with developing new materials that can be processed through light-activated 3D printing. 3D printing is able to offer a synergistic effect between the design of the object and the intrinsic properties of the materials, allowing to obtain artifacts with unique characteristics. In our perspective, it is necessary to take advantage of this synergy to best develop the potential of 3D printing so that it can truly become an element present in our everyday life. And this study falls exactly in the wake of this philosophy ”.

This research represents a first step towards the development of highly complex devices that can exploit complex geometries and intrinsic self-repair properties in various fields. In particular, once the biocompatibility studies in progress at the Polytechnic Interdepartmental Polito BIO Med Lab have been refined , it will be possible to use these structures both for basic studies on cellular mechanisms and for applications in the field of regenerative medicine.

Reference: Caprioli, M., Roppolo, I., Chiappone, A. et al. 3D-printed self-healing hydrogels via Digital Light Processing. Nat Commun 12, 2462 (2021).

Provided by Politecnico Di Torino

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