(Photo : Getty Images/Spencer Platt) A new breakthrough in 3D printing technology has seen researchers create body parts including an ear, muscle, cartilage, skull bone and even a jawbone – that have all been transplanted into mice and rats.
A new breakthrough in 3D printing technology has seen researchers create body parts including an ear, muscle, cartilage, skull bone and even a jawbone – that have all been transplanted into mice and rats.
It may sound like science fiction but the results of the study, conducted by researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., show that printing living tissue to replace injured or diseased tissue in patients could soon become commonplace, writes New York Daily News.
“This novel tissue and organ printer is an important advance in our quest to make replacement tissue for patients,” Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and senior author on the study, said in a statement.
Once transplanted into mice and rats in the lab, the ear, cartilage and bone began to grow and develop connective blood vessels.
The technology will be fit for human trials once the researchers have conducted more tests and received government approval.
The researchers have received funding from the U.S. military for the study, as they hope they technology can be used to treat injuries sustained in battle.
“Our goal is to treat patients and our wounded warriors,” Atala said in a statement.
While 3D organ printing technology has been around for years, the new tissue is more stable than those that have been printed in the past.
“The concept is, you would take a small piece of tissue from a patient – less than half the size of a postage stamp – then we can expand the cells outside the body and place them in the printer so we could print tissues for that same patient,” Atala said.
The cells for the body parts take several weeks to grow and just a few hours to print.
The Wake Forest School of Medicine built a customized 3D printer that scans a blueprint design uses bio-gel and biodegradable materials to print the product.
Atala said that the technology could be available in the near future.
Researchers are aiming to engineer tissue to produce replacement tissue and organs in the lab to increase stockpiles of organs used for transplants and overcome the current shortages.
The paper was published in Nature Biotechnology.