Progress made in 3D printing human tissue

Completed ear and jaw bone structures printed with the Integrated Tissue-Organ Printing System (Supplied / Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)
Completed ear and jaw bone structures printed with the Integrated Tissue-Organ Printing System (Supplied / Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

Developments in printing technology have led us to quickly move from printing flat images to 3D models. Now we're drawing closer to having the ability to print human tissue.

But printing a human ear is a lot harder than printing a phone case, or a gun.

The tech still hasn't reached the point where printed tissue could be safely transplanted into a patient, but a team of US scientists have managed to figure out and fix a few issues that got in the way.

Progress made in 3D printing human tissue

(Supplied / Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

Previously, 3D bioprinted tissues and organs were structurally unsound and fragile. And without blood vessels, oxygen and other nutrients were unable pass through the cells in larger print-outs.

But the new designs include a scaffolding design with channels allowing oxygen and nutrients to travel through the tissue.

It's allowed them to print structures at human size, something other bioprinters haven't yet been able to do.

Progress made in 3D printing human tissue

(Supplied / Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

They've also come up with a way to personalise the shape of the printed models to what each patient needs, creating a 3D computer model using clinical imaging. The model is then transformed into a program which guides the printer nozzles.

The research focused on bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle, so it could be possible one day if you broke a bone, you could just print a new one.

But there's still a lot of work to be done before that science-fiction turns to reality.

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