Printing a model rabbit out of sugar might sound like something scientists do when left alone with a 3D printer. But this bunny may hold the key to a new type of bioengineering. Its curving limbs are built from sticky strands of isomalt, the same chemical used to make throat sweets. But instead of the substance itself being directly soothing inside the body, it may provide a sweet support for growing cells, healing tissues or serve as a dissolvable cage to carry drugs into infected tissues. A special nozzle produces a stream of isomalt which hardens as it squirts out, 'sketching' 3D shapes in mid-air. The sugary structures can be fine-tuned with software, changing their mechanical properties at different places in the design – just the thing for dealing with subtle changes across biological tissues, or modifying how drugs are released to tackle different pathogens.
Written by John Ankers
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