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3D Tissue Printing: Engineering the Human Body

24 MAR 2014

This week, the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences blog looks at incredible new advances in 3D printing. Over the last 20 years, the science has been evolving rapidly – we use 3D printers to “print” plastic, metal, nylon, and over a hundred other materials. Instead of ordering a replacement part for a household appliance, home versions of the device will allow us to simply print it up. In fact, 3D printed parts are now found on the space station and in airplanes. A recent AAPS blog post, 3D Tissue Printing: Engineering the Human Body, observes that:

it seems there are few limits to what the technology can create. And those limits have been stretched even further by recent innovations in live tissue printing. Known as bioprinting, the process has enabled scientists to engineer bones and tissue from samples of a patient’s own cells, and it has tremendous potential in the areas of prosthetics, organ replacement and clinical research. With the power to change how drugs are tested and how disease is treated, 3D tissue printing is expected to dramatically alter the landscape of traditional health care.

The post explains precisely how tissue is printed, a process that begins with a patient tissue – known as bioink – which is loaded into a printer cartridge. Combined with a stabilizing agent called Hydrogel, the 3D printer builds a living strip of tissue layer by layer. The technology is advancing so rapidly, that although the printers are mostly used for fragments, a team in China recently managed to print a small working kidney that remained functional for 4 months. And a company called Organovo anticipates it will be printing working livers by the end of 2015.