Christchurch researchers trying to regrow veins with 3D printer

It's straight out of a sci-fi book but line by line, fantasy is becoming reality in a tiny lab at the University of Otago in Christchurch.

A study funded with a Marsden grant is underway to use 3D printing to help the body regrow veins in science that could dramatically increase the life of people all over the world.

The researchers, Dr Khoon Lim and PhD candidate Cesar Alcala, are part of a new wave of scientists trying to 3D print new organs that can be implanted into the body when old ones fail like hearts, livers and kidneys.

While that science is advanced no one has figured out yet is how to replicate the veins, to keep the printed organs going.

"We're still trying to 3D print these organs, but one of the key challenges is to have blood vessels within them, so they can stay alive," Dr Lim says.

The Christchurch based team have a $300,000 dollar Marsden grant to tackle this complication over the next 3 years.

To do it they take real cells from the body and implant them in bio-ink, a substance which replicates the human body.

The hope is that the new cells grow in a culture and can be put back into the body, becoming blood vessels.

"In this case, we have cells in it, so we are printing something that's living, we are printing a live construct," Mr Alcala says.

If successful it would keep the body going past its natural expiry date, but asked whether people could soon live forever, the researchers are less certain.

"Not really, but we're trying to help people to age better," Dr Lim says.

New Zealand scientists developing a brave new world and the future of medical science.