A group of scientists has created a 3D-bioprinter that fabricates structures such as cartilage, bone and muscle intended for transplantation. The group, which has managed to produce an ear with the new material, is testing the technique in lab animals, and hopes to use it in humans in the near future.
Preliminary results were reported on a study published in Nature Biotechnology. The organs printed by the new machine are actually special porous structures where human cells are able to penetrate. The plastic-like material has microchannels that acted like a capillary bed, allowing the living tissue of the body itself to be shaped to it, forming a new structure.
[Image source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine]
“It can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue of any shape. With further development, this technology could potentially be used to print living tissue and organ structures for surgical implantation,” one of the researchers behind the technology, Anthony Atala from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, told The Guardian.
These biological molds created by the group, such as the ear, are produced from digital information obtained by clinical imaging techniques such as MRI and CT scans. The group has also created a jaw fragment using the same technique. The idea is that the special plastics used in the frame slowly degrades, giving way to human tissue originated from the body of the transplanted person. It is not the first time the use of a biodegradable frame is used in organ regeneration, but previous attempts to use 3D printing have failed because the material produced wasn’t rigid enough, the researchers say.