A RESEARCH TEAM FROM Carnegie Mellon University has hacked a commercial 3D printer to create models of hearts, arteries, bones and brains out of biological material.
In what could be the first step to printing working human organs, the research is presented in an article in the journal Science Advances and explains how the technology is able to take MRI images of coronary arteries and 3D images of embryonic hearts.
It can then 3D bioprint them at a high resolution out of soft materials like collagens, alginates and fibrins.
These soft materials are difficult to print because they collapse under their own weight when 3D printed in air, but the university printed them in a support gel that melts at body temperature.
"Essentially, we print one gel inside another gel, which allows us to accurately position the soft material as it's being printed, layer by layer," said Adam Feinberg, leader of Carnegie Mellon's Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics group.
"It has really enabled us to accelerate development of new materials and innovate in this space. And we are also contributing back by releasing our 3D printer designs under an open source licence."
The proof-of-concept structures are based on femurs, branched coronary arteries, trabeculated embryonic hearts and human brains. They are mechanically robust and recreate complex 3D internal and external anatomical architectures, according to the research team.
Shortly after the announcement, a Chinese biotechnology company said on Sunday that it has developed the world's first 3D blood vessel bio-printer, which produces personalised functional organs.
Sichuan Revotek, a company based in Chengdu, the capital of south west China's Sichuan province, explained that the breakthrough was achieved with an in-house stem cell bio-ink technology along with a 3D bio-printer and a cloud computing platform.
"The creative breakthrough in 3D blood vessel bio-printing means we have mastered the stem cell-based 3D bio-printing technology," Revotek told Chinese news site Xinhuanet. µ
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