Doctors Use 3D Printing in the Development of
Scientists working on this project at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hope that this process might be used in future for performing organ transplants.
For some time, experts have been working on 3D printing human cells and blood vessels, with mixed results - the cells have on many occasions have not survived the duration of tissue production.
Dr Jordan Miller, from the University of Pennsylvania, said that the main problem with having so many cells in one place at the same time has been that, in order to survive, the cells will compete with each other for nutrients such as oxygen, and many will suffocate and cease to function as a result - whereas the human cardiovascular system will naturally counteract this process with blood cells.
Therefore, the aim of the experiment taking place across the two institutions has been to create an artificial vascular network which would house the blood cells to do this.
Speaking on behalf of the team, Professor Sangeeta Bhatia explained how the technology uses sugar as its source material to produce the artificial cells. He said how difficult it had been for him and his colleagues to engineer organs big enough to be functional, and it was particularly hard to maintain tissue with a thickness of more than a millimetre without incorporating blood vessels into it.
By using 3D printing and sugar, however, the team have managed to generate thicker tissue - particularly, the professor noted, because sugar is so cohesive with natural tissue.
The team did not perform a full implantation, but the experiment did successfully establish that it would be possible to produce a fully working organ in the future.
Prof Bhatia explained that by creating a network of pipes made from these cells, and setting liver cells around them, they had attempted to create a liver - but that the process could be replicated using different organ cells to create just about anything.
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