3D printing tissue was made possible at Wake Forest University as the research team behind the project managed to print both cells and the bio-scaffold together. Living cells require a great amount of nurturing and special conditions to grow into human tissue.
From human tissue to fully-grown body parts or interior organs another few steps prove difficult to take. However, a team of engineers with the Wake Forest University took the extra step to ensure 3D bioprinting becomes the go-to technology of the future as far as replacement tissue is concerned. The research team boasts successful 3D printing of ears, muscle tissue and jawbones.
The field of 3D bioprinting has advanced rapidly in the past years. However, different approaches yielded different results. Typically, a plastic scaffold is printed and enriched with living cells that would eventually mold the human tissue in the desired form. However, removing the tissue from the scaffold has rendered it inapplicable for medical purposes.
The Wake Forest University team is the first to use the gel and the living cells together for 3D bioprinting. The living cells mixed with the gel harden gradually to reach the same consistency of living tissue. In the process, the network necessary to feed the cells with vital nutrients are created. Slowly, blood vessels are also introduced and human tissue is successfully supported.
3D printing tissue was made possible at Wake Forest University. According to Doctor Anthony Atala, lead researcher on the project:
“We show that we can grow muscle. We make ears the size of baby ears. We make jawbones the size of human jawbones. We are printing all kinds of things”.
The research paper is published in the Nature Biotechnology journal. According to the research team, an adapted printer dubbed the integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP) was used during the project. This device is capable of producing stable human tissue constructs of all shapes.
The shape is informed by CT and MRI data mixed with computerized design software. Doctor Atala’s work has been conducted also under a contract with the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Under this contract, 3D bioprinting aims to help military personnel that suffered severe battle injuries regain body parts or reconstructed tissue. However, the technology could help other patients too.
The structures created with the use of 3D bioprinting in the Wake Forest University lab serve the right functions in addition to having the right strength and size. Replacement tissue is one step closer to becoming widely available.
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