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Scientists generate living tissue using 3D printer

18 February 2016

Scientists generate living tissue using 3D printer

3D-printed ear and jaw bone structures using the the Integrated Tissue-Organ Printing System. Image credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Scientists have developed a specialised 3D printer that has successfully generated living cartilage, bone and muscle. 

The team at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) hope that the technology could be used in the future to replace tissue in humans required after injury or disease.

Unlike conventional tissue engineering methods, the printer developed at WFIRM is able to generate complex tissues packed with micro-channels which serve the tissue’s cells with the oxygen and nutrients they need to grow.

"This novel tissue and organ printer is an important advance in our quest to make replacement tissue for patients," said Anthony Atala, M.D., Director of the WFIRM and senior author on the study. "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."

The printer, known as the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP) uses bio-degradable materials that act as a scaffold for cells to adhere to and form an organ, tissue or bone. The scaffold structures then breakdown as the cells produce their own structural “matrix”.

The researchers grew ear cartilage, jaw bone, and muscle using the ITOP.

By using medical imaging techniques such as CT and MRI scans the ITOP can generate tissues specifically for individual patients, for example, to generate jaw bone to fit to their damaged jaw.

When implanted into mice and rats, the ear cartilage and muscle tissue were well-maintained  after two months and two weeks respectively, forming their own blood vessels in order to survive.   

Further development will be required before ITOP method can have clinical implications in humans.  



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