It may sound like a crazy idea but how can a vitamin which plays a key role in energy metabolism help a technological process like 3D printing? Apparently it can, particularly when it comes to 3D printing artificial tissues and medical implants.
Riboflavin also known as vitamin B2 required for a wide variety of cellular processes is usually found in milk, mushrooms, almonds and leafy vegetables like carrots, contributing to the orange colour of solid B-vitamin preparations.
Until now, most 3D printing used in medicine to create scaffolds for growing artificial tissues or implants involve polymers that can be toxic to living cells. However, the new technique takes advantage of a unique property of riboflavin: sensitivity to light. This allows scientists to use riboflavin as a “photo-initiator” (activated by laser light) which breaks down and allows the 3D printing ‘ink’ to solidify.
Using a laser, researchers created a type of honeycomb scaffolds that contained riboflavin which they then lined with living cells from a cow. The results showed that these scaffolds were more compatible with living cells than the ones made with traditional chemicals, allowing more DNA to survive, scientists reported in the journal Regenerative Medicine.
Many tests and studies will still need to be made until this process can be used on a larger scale mainly because the riboflavin is not as an efficient photo-initiator as the more toxic one currently used in 3D printing, but researchers said this limitation could be overcome.