Professor Cho Dong-woo of POSTECH’s (Pohang University of Science and Technology) Mechanical Engineering Department and Choi Young-jin, who is going for Ph.D. in convergence bio-engineering have succeeded in manufacturing world’s first artificial muscles that are almost identical to actual human muscles by using 3D cell printing technology and bio-ink that is derived from muscles.
Currently researches in manufacturing personal medical devices using 3D printing technology and artificial organs are very active. However these could not reach the level of actually substituting organs due to materials that are harmful to human body. Research done by Professor Cho is receiving attentions due to the fact that he was able to develop artificial muscles that imitate human skeletal muscle structure and its own qualities.
Skeletal muscles are muscles that are located near bones in human body and appear in variety of forms.
Unlike involuntary muscle such as heart that cannot control muscle activity, skeletal muscles can carry out many movements with different level of strength through electric signals.
Therefore, artificial muscles that will replace skeletal muscles need to be manufactured so that they can take variety of forms and sizes and easily perform contraction and relaxation.

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<Professor Cho Dong-woo of POSTECH and Choi Young-jin have manufactured artificial muscles that are almost identical to actual human muscles by using 3D printing technology and bio-ink. Picture of concept diagram of manufacturing artificial muscles.>

Artificial muscles that were previously developed were manufactured through a method that fills material such as collagen that is suitable for human body and cells into mold that is already prepared. This method takes long time and cannot be personalized to patients.
This method also could not regulate alignment of cells that is necessary to reproduce muscles. Especially there were limitations to materials that are suitable to human body in helping living of cells like actual muscles and providing environment that is necessary to form and reproduce muscle fibers.
Considering these facts, research team led by Professor Cho used bio-ink that is made from actual skeletal muscles and manufactured artificial muscles using 3D cell printing technology. By using extra cellular matrix excluding cells from muscle structures as main material, these artificial muscles provide conditions that are very similar to actual muscle conditions.
Artificial muscles that are developed by research team are much superior than artificial muscles that use materials such as collagen in forming muscle fibers and division and growth.
It is heard that these muscles show relaxation and contraction when they are stimulated electrically and imitate actual muscles’ functions very effectively.
“Because artificial muscles can imitate actual muscles’ structure and functions very closely if they are made based on 3D cell printing technology and muscle-based bio-ink, they can be used greatly in developing new medicines and treating muscle illness.” said Professor Cho Dong-woo.
This research was recently published as the cover of ‘Advanced Healthcare Materials’ that is an international scientific journal in bio-material field. It was carried out through support from Leader Researcher Support Program that is led by Ministry of Science, ICP and Future Planning and National Research Foundation of Korea and Mechatronics Convergence Technology Development Project.
Staff Reporter Jung Jaehoon |