Dr Eric Du
Postdoctoral Researcher, CBNS & The University of New South Wales
Field of expertise: 3D bioprinting and cancer cells
In the time you have been working in your field, what impossible things have become possible?
My colleagues have developed a new printer that, rather than printing ink, prints a small 3D cell model. These models contain cells and a material that mimics the tissue found in the body and encompasses cells within it. The printer is able to make many of these very quickly and can print many different structures. It was even awarded the 2019 Good Design Award!
What impossible thing(s) are you working towards making possible, and why?
In my research, I’m working towards developing materials for the bioprinter that will allow for the accurate testing of a large number of chemical compounds for personalised cancer treatments. This will let us quickly find the most effective way of treating cancer in a patient.
What is an example of an impossible thing others in your field are currently working to make possible?
In 3D bioprinting, we are limited by the speed of the printers. This is limited by many other factors such as the time it takes for the material to form once it exits the printer, technical issues with printing liquids and cells, cell survivability and the resolution of the printers.
In your field are there any things that you predict will remain impossible, and why?
I think one thing that will remain impossible is synthesising a perfect mimic of the natural extracellular matrix in which cells live. We may get close, but I doubt we will match the extensive cocktail exactly. The extracellular matrix is just such a complex mixture of biological molecules and structural proteins; not to mentioned all the different types of tissue that exist in the human body. However, I do believe that we can get close enough for accurate and useful tools in biomedical applications.
In your opinion what formerly impossible and now possible thing in your field has made or is making the largest contribution to human or planetary flourishing?
Over the past century, medicine has developed to the point where many previously incurable diseases have been researched to such a degree that they can now be controlled and even cured. I think, therefore, with the current research on treatment and early detection, we can achieve a similar result for cancers in the twenty-first century.
Watch a video introducing bioprinting technology.
Dr Eric Du is a researcher in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science & Technology headquartered at Monash University, Parkville.