Need a new heart? Researchers have already been using 3D printers to create human tissue. Now, scientists at the University of Sydney, collaborating with MIT, Harvard and Stanford, have figured out how to “bio-print” blood vessels with the hope of eventually making new, artificial organs.
According to 3Dprint.com, researchers needed to figure out how to pump blood into the bio-printed human tissue before creating human organs for organ transplant patients:
“Researchers used an extremely advanced bioprinter to fabricate tiny fibers, all interconnected, which would represent the complex vascular structure of an organ,” according to 3Dprint.com. “They coated the fibers with human endothelial cells, and then covered it with a protein based material, rich in cells.”
They then hardened the cell-infused material by applying light. After it was hard, the researchers removed the coated fibers, which left an “intricate network of tiny spaces throughout the hardened cell material.”
They also left the human endothelial cells behind, along the tiny spaces created by the fibers. After a week, these tiny spaces self-organized into stable capillaries.
The study’s lead author, University of Sydney researcher Dr. Luiz Bertassoni, believes this new breakthrough will change medical care and organ transplants.
“Imagine being able to walk into a hospital and have a full organ printed — or bio-printed, as we call it — with all the cells, proteins and blood vessels in the right place, simply by pushing the ‘print’ button in your computer screen,” Bertassoni told 3Dprint.
Using 3D printing to create new organs will substantially accelerate the process of saving patients in need of organ transplants, but researchers say it will be a while before fully functional organs are available.