TREE OF PLENTY
Sara and Jane used 3D digital scanning to record the complex textures and form of the gnarled and fissured trunk of the black mulberry at St Margaret’s House. These highly detailed digital images enabled close examination of the sculptural form of the trunk, revealing a magical micro landscape.
This 3D digital virtual imaging was then taken into David’s lab to print a 3D physical form from gel made from mulberry fruit demonstrating application of manufacturing process in which solid objects can be created through a series of additive or layered developmental successions to generate a complete 3D object. The novelty in this technology stems from the fact that the “inks” used can be synthetic-based materials, biological derivatives (such as the mulberry gel) or even individual human cells.
There is an increasing demand for the repair and replacement of “hard” tissues such as bone, cartilage and teeth due to increased life expectancy and accidental injuries. Although the majority of materials used provide the correct mechanical and physical properties required, they seldomly allow the biological interaction required to prevent implant rejection. As such, research has focused on combining biologically-derived components into the development of new materials that may offer the longer-term tissue integration desired. Mulberry bark tissue consists of a variety of biopolymers that include polysaccharides, lignin and cellulose which have demonstrated a degree of biocompatibility as well as promoting the growth of human cells. Taken together, it may be possible to create novel “bio-inks” to 3D print custom replacement body parts to suit individual patients.