One has to wonder what age we are in when 3D printed organs are on the verge of becoming a reality. Yup, that’s right bio-printers are a thing, they are already making skin, and vascular tissue. Current technology only allows for flat or hollow tissue to be printed, these processes will often use the organ recipients own cells to produce the living tissue.
But, new research into inkjet organ printing, yes “inkjet organ printing” may have made it easier to print larger 3d organs. Though there are still several factors that need to be over come to print large 3d organs, they appear to be right around the corner.
Scientists at Osaka University have discovered an improved method for making printing materials stick together as they drop one drop of material onto another. The researchers have developed an enzyme-driven method to glue biological ink together. This breakthrough will allow a larger range of cell types to be used in the bio-printing process.
Previous printing methods had used a binding material called sodium alginate, a polysaccharid extract from brown seaweed. This binding material, according to the researchers limited the range of cells that could be used. The new binding agent uses an enzyme called horseradish peroxidase. When combined with hydrogen peroxide in a hydrogelation process, this enzyme can be used to bind groups of bio-printing material together.
In the words of the Lead author, Shinji Sakai “Printing any kind of tissue structure is a complex process. The bio-ink must have low enough viscosity to flow through the inkjet printer, but also needs to rapidly form a highly viscose gel-like structure when printed. Our new approach meets these requirements while avoiding sodium alginate. In fact, the polymer we used offers excellent potential for tailoring the scaffold material for specific purposes.”
Like it or not, 3d bio-printed organs are quickly becoming a reality. Stranger still they are using simple inkjet technology to build organs out of biological inks, drop by drop.
In my opinion it would be better to take care of the organs you have in the first place. The implications of these organs will not be known for decades to come. Though this is an undeniably interesting breakthrough, you have to wonder what time it really is.
Osaka University. “Growing organs a few ink drops at a time: Researchers refine method of making bio-ink droplets stick to each other, enabling 3D printing of highly complex biological structures with a wide variety of cell types using inkjet printers.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 December 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171227100040.htm>.