3D Printed Living Tissue

3D printing has been somewhat of a revolution in technology in recent years. Starting out with simple designs made out of plastic, engineers have been pushing the technology again and again to try and develop more efficient, cheap or accessible ways for people to create things. NASA has been working on printing food for use in space, biomedical engineers have been working on printing replacement joints or limbs for a fraction of the price of a custom made part made without 3D printing. Now, in what sounds like the most ambitious idea yet, engineers at Harvard are printing out blocks that form the basis of living tissue, creating the foundation to making 3D printed living tissues.

The machine that has been created uses multiple printer heads. Each prints a different biological building block, which together form complex tissue and blood vessels. This heralds a variety of possibilities, including being able to print replacements for diseased or injured tissues or organs, using a CT scan of the original, or the area where it would go. The scan could be interpreted on a computer to create a highly accurate physical product, made to measure to the exact specifications from the scan.

To create the tissues, the team produced ‘bio-inks’ which are laid down by separate printer heads. One contains an extracellular matrix, a complex mixture of water, proteins and carbohydrates that connects individual cells together to form tissues. Another contains this and living cells, and a third is used to make the vessels. The latter melts, and upon cooling, researchers can suck out the ink to leave behind hollow tubes. These hollow tubes can be lined with endothelial cells, which grow into the blood vessel lining.

An image taken from Harvard’s documentation, explaining the structure of the product.

An animated gif, courtesy of Txchnologist.com, made from the Wyss Institute’s video on Vimeo of this printing mechanism.

Source of the story: http://txchnologist.com/post/77300046515/living-tissue-emerges-from-3-d-printer-harvard

Images courtesy of Wyss Institute, Harvard and Txchnologist.com

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