This photo shows an ear structure printed with the new bioprinter. Credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Thanks to the advancement in technology scientist can now print  human sized bones, cartilage and muscle using a device called “3D bioprinter”. This device can one day be used to replace tissue in patients.


Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said


“This novel tissue and organ printer is an important advance in our quest to make replacement tissue for patients… It can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue of any shape.”


The demand for engineered tissues and organs has been on the rise because of the limited availability of donated tissue and organs  for transplants in people who need them, the researchers said. One promising way to make these tissues and organs is through the use of precise 3D bioprinters, which lay cells down onto a scaffold in layers.


Although scientists had previously engineered relatively simple tissues in the lab, those tissues were not strong enough to be implanted in the body.


The device prints cells together with polymer materials that help to form and mimic the shape of the original tissues. To overcome the issue of the size limit, the researchers printed a lattice of micro channels throughout the tissues so that nutrients and oxygen could be delivered to cells deep within the tissues.


In experiments, the researchers were able to print rabbit cells into human-size ear structures, and then implant these structures under the skin of mice. Two months later, the ear structures maintained their shapes; they had not broken down at all within the body. Moreover, cartilage tissue and blood vessels had formed around the structures, to support them.


The researchers also used mouse and rat cells to print muscle tissue and fragments of skull bones, and implant them into rats. The muscle tissue maintained its structure for at least week. The skull fragments had formed bone tissue with blood vessels by five months after being implanted.


The researchers even printed human-size jawbone fragments using human stem cells. The fragments were the size and shape of fragments that would potentially be used for facial reconstruction in people.


However, more research is needed before such 3D printed tissues could be tested in human patients, Atala said.


For example, making tissues that could be transplanted to humans would need to involve clinical-grade human cells, and these would ideally be derived from the patient who would receive the transplanted tissue, the researchers said.





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