Scientists could be one step closer to creating organs for transplant using 3D printing technology.
A group of researchers from South Carolina in the USA, together with their Chinese colleagues from Zhejiang University, have made headway in understanding how so-called biological “inks” behave as they are dispensed through the nozzle head of a 3-D printer.
The printer drops the biological ink, composed of cells, in a precise way to build up the organ of choice.
“The broad spectrum of what we’re doing is called biofabrication,” says Dr Michael Yost, who is heading the research. “Biofabrication just means using some basic techniques in engineering to create new tissues and tissue components,” he added.
Scientists lower the bio-ink through a syringe into a Petri dish. The printer is equipped with UV rays to sterilise the cells, while two mounted lights hover above with electronic microscopes to allow a closer look at the cells.
Although scientists admit that growing human organs is still a long way off, they have made tremendous progress since research started more than a decade ago.
“With our 3-D bio-printer, we’ve been able to create new micro-vascular networks that we can then grow new tissues in very key areas such as pancreas, liver and kidney,” said Michael Yost.
The idea is to eventually create functional 3D printed “self-made” organs, eliminating the risk of rejection by the patient’s immune system when receiving an organ from a donor.