by JOHN-PAUL HOLDEN Published on the 11 February 2015 11:09
3D PRINTING of transplant organs “on demand” has moved a step closer thanks to research by a team of scientists in Scotland.
Experts at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University are using a unique 3D bio-printer they have developed in combination with a new gel made from synthetic DNA to enable production of artificial organs.
They said the technique could be used to help ensure copies of body parts including the heart, liver and kidneys are available immediately, potentially bringing an end to waiting times of years for lifesaving transplant operations.
The technology works by mixing cells with the DNA gel before they are “3D printed” into the form of a human organ using Heriot-Watt’s device.
Members of the Edinburgh team, led by Professor Rory Duncan and Dr Will Shu, said the key challenge was finding a suitable “scaffold” to support live cells in 3D which would not be rejected by transplant recipients.
They said earlier efforts to develop the technology had always been hampered by the need to use harmful heating, salt-based and UV processes when solidifying support substances such as collagen or seaweed extract for 3D printing.
The new DNA gel, which has been perfected by scientists at Tsinghua University in Beijing, marks a major breakthrough, they added.
Efforts will now focus on refining the technology, although it is th