DoD Scientist of the Quarter

Dr. Bradley R. Ringeisen, Naval Research Laboratory

Bradley Ringeisen, PhD, was recently named Department of Defense Scientist of the Quarter for his breakthrough 3D cell printing process termed Biological Laser Printing, or BioLP. BioLP is the Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) patented laser printing tool for creating 2D and 3D patterns of biomaterials, including living cells (bacteria and mammalian), soil/sediment, hydrogels, and biomolecules. It is the first 3D bioprinting process to move beyond liquid inks that form soft tissue. This BioLP process could lead to a variety of applications, including discovery of new antibiotics, improved biofuel production, and in the long term – artificial 3D organ and tissue printing.

Mr. Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics awards Scientist of the Quarter to Dr. Bradley R. Ringeisen, Head of the Bioenergy and Biofabrication Section in the Chemistry Division at NRL.
Mr. Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, awards Scientist of the Quarter to Dr. Bradley R. Ringeisen, NRL Chemistry Division, Head of the Bioenergy and Biofabrication Section.

Dirke Williams, AT&L

After graduating with a PhD in Physical Chemistry in 2000, Ringeisen completed a two-year postdoctoral associateship at NRL in the Materials Division to study laser deposition of biomaterials. During this time, he started developing bioprinting applications of a laser-based direct write tool. NRL hired him in 2002 as a research chemist, and he currently leads an 11 member research group for the Bioenergy and Biofabrication Section of the Chemistry Division. He was the first to print viable cells using the technology, both bacteria and mammalian cells, and has since optimized the approach by putting a laser absorption layer that helps protect the biologicals from potentially damaging ultraviolet light from the laser pulses. For over 15 years, he worked to improve bioprinting technology and apply it to Navy-related applications.

Therefore, BioLP is unique compared to other bioprinters. It does not use a traditional micro-tube or capillary-based printhead, cannot clog, and has been used to print a variety of materials including not only water-based cell inks but also gels and solids. BioLP has also been used in conjunction with Navy-patented biodegradable biopapers that can be easily printed to and then stacked to create 3D tissue mimics. These biopapers have been created with a range of material properties that mimic soft and hard tissues, whereas all other bioprinters are relegated to printing liquid inks and subsequently form soft tissues only. Additionally, BioLP has the ability to create fine, micro-scale features of cells and therefore has the potential to mimic some of the micro-scale structure found in natural tissue.

Dr. Bradley R. Ringeisen holding the BioLP Dr. Bradley R. Ringeisen holding the BioLP "printhead" in front of the original BioLP machine. Dirke Williams, AT&L

Current bioprinting accomplishments at NRL include printing vascular-like patterns with micro-scale resolution, creating barrier tissue mimics of the air/lung and blood-brain-barrier interfaces, and printing three dimensional highways of surrogate cells to aid in neuronal re-growth in the spinal cord. In 2015, Ringeisen and his colleagues were also the first in the world to demonstrate viable microorganisms printed directly from soil using BioLP, opening the possibility for high throughput discovery of new microorganisms and enzymes that could be used in a range of applications including carbon sequestration; discovery of new antibiotics; non-photosynthetic biofuel production; and biodegradation of oil, polymers, or coatings.

Three dimensional bioprinters like BioLP ultimately will lead to human tissue mimics that could be used for microfluidic test systems (“organs-on-a-chip”) or engineered tissue constructs that could be used in organ replacement therapies. Department of Defense (DoD) specific long-term applications for tissue replacement include wound repair and prophylactic or therapeutic development for a range of battlefield injuries including traumatic brain injury (TBI), radiation exposure, tinnitus or hearing loss, trauma-induced osteoarthritis, and skin burns. Additional, shorter-term applications exist for in vitro (on-chip) printed tissues. Specifically, human “organs-on-a-chip” could be used in place of or in parallel with current 2D cell culture, animal studies, or human clinical trials to develop new drug targets or test drug candidates for toxicity and efficacy, especially for biothreat agents where human clinical trials are impossible.

Additionally, Ringeisen is leading a multi-institution charge, the DoD 3D Bioprinting Consortium formed in 2015, that is linking NRL with the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences (USUHS) and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). NRL scientists and engineers teamed with medical clinicians at USUHS and WRNMMC to begin bioprinting collaborations to study TBI, radiation exposure to tissue, and skin replacement therapies.

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