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Moscow Polytech
25 February 2019

The Physicist Boris Pokusaev, with the Support of the Russian Science Foundation Improves the Technology of Bioprinting

A long title project “Development of Methods for Controlling the Properties of Organized Microstructured Disperse systems and Gels with the Assistance of External Relaxation Processes” keeps one of the most interesting and significant scientific processes that are taking place at Moscow Poly at present.

The project is headed by Boris G. Pokusaev, a Thermal Physicist with many years of experience. Since the 60s of the last century, he conducted research in the Scientific Centre also known as Akademgorodok in Novosibirsk.

In the 90-ies Boris G. Pokusaev moved to Moscow and joined the staff of the Moscow Institute of Chemical Engineering (Moscow Institute of Chemical Engineering, now — Moscow Polytechnic University).

Now he is a researcher of the Department “Chembiotech”. Among the accomplishment and regalia of the Scientist are: Doctor of Technical Science, Professor, corresponding member of RAS, Honored Employee of Science of the Russian Federation, Honored Worker of Higher School, Member of the expert councils of Higher Attestation Commission, Russian Foundation of Basic Researches on Energy, as well as the National Committee of RAS on Heat and Mass Transfer.

The Professor says about his scientific interests that their range is wide: basically, these are two-phase media-gas -, vapor-liquid media and their properties. One of the most significant awards is the State Prize of the USSR, the scientist received it in 1983 as a part of group for a cycle of works "Wave Dynamics of Gas-Liquid Systems".

His current research is supported by the Russian Science Foundation. Boris G. Pokusaev 's history of Grant support for projects is long — in the early 90's, along with other scientists, he was supported by the Soros Foundation, providing funds for work in the field of natural Sciences, and then the activity of the scientist as in the USSR was sponsored by the State again: the State Assignment of the Ministry of Education and Science, RFBR, RSF, etc.

If you say the name of the project in the simple way, it would be something like "How to manage the properties of gel and similar substances which include foreign particles, cells and bubbles." But in order to understand the research topic, it is better to listen to the Professor's comments.

"Short preamble. Now there is a real "boom" of scientific interest of Physicists, Natural Scientists to Medicine and Biology. This is not only because of Humanitarian goals — the importance of Medicine for everyone and so on. Physicists interfere in these issues also because they have more advanced research methods that are applicable to Biomedical problems. The difficulty of studying the objects — that is, living organisms is enormous. As a physicist or, more accurately, a Thermophysicist, when I am into this current project, I become more and more convinced that this a new area of knowledge is extremely difficult for me. Interesting but complex. And I don't know if interest or complexity comes first. We had a seminar today and all 9 participants of this grant project said: "How interesting everything is!”

So, we deal with the problems of Biology from the side of Physics or Thermophysics. There is the problem with Bioprinting - the printing of human organs. It is well advertised now. I'll say it again, the tasks associated with this are very complicated. We undertook the following part of the research: it is known that you need to put the cells in some environment and observe how they grow. Intensify or slow down this growth. The process of the growth of these cells, stem cells or other needs to be managed. We chose gel as the medium. It is widely used in Medicine and so on, it is also known. Specifically – agarose gel. As model cells we have yeast of different types. Then we observe the process of the diffusion of the nutrient medium through this gel. The same gel serves as " ink " for a 3D bioprinter. It should be semi-liquid, in a certain temperature range. And we study how the gel behaves depending on the temperature. In the end, we need to learn how to create the capillaries inside the gel to apply through them nutrients to the cells and the yeast. Layering one layer with the cells on the other, we observe how the processes of heat and mass transfer. Here is our strong point in this project.

There is a professional biotechnologist in our group who tells us how and what to do with these yeast. The main goal is to offer bioprinting technology for such-and-such gel with such-and-such cells.

I believe that our breakthrough in solving these problems is that we use optical measurement methods. We practice laser tomography of gel with cells. Thermophysical or thermal imaging methods are also used, because you need to monitor the temperature without penetrating into the gel. With the help of optical methods, we can see how the structure of this medium changes. We follow this indirectly - the study of the structure is not our main goal, and to implement it is a special difficulty. This is the size of the "nano" and in addition we are talking about the dispersed structure. Cells have a process of metabolism, they emit gases, which we also need to learn to remove. There are also inclusions in the form of water, which dissolves the dispersed medium. But we definitely need to investigate the movement of gas bubbles between the layers of gel and be sure to know the thermal properties of gels. Therefore, experiments are conducted to study properties such as thermal conductivity of gel. At the same time, the main goal is to develop the theoretical foundations of bioprinting technologies."

The scientist also told us that within the group working on the project 5 out of 9 people are young professionals. This balance was maintained throughout the grant period. The experimental work is going smoothly, the necessary equipment was partially purchased at the expense of the grant. Difficulties arose only in connection with the relocation — within the period of the merger of individual educational institutions, departments and other structural reforms.

Professor Boris Pokusaev explains the success of many years of scientific work not only with financial support, but also with the contribution to his personal and professional development made by teachers and colleagues. Among the most authoritative people for him are the first Teacher Academician Samson Kutateladze and long-term co-author of researches and a friend - Academician Vladimir Nakoryakov, who passed away last year.

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