Using 3D Printing Technology to Print Organs and Tissue
Living tissues are composed of many cell types that are arranged in a very specific order. When engineering replacement tissues and organs in the lab, maintaining this order is essential to ensuring that the replacement tissues have the same function that original body parts have.
Because of the precision of printing, researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have been investigating the possibility printing tissues and organs. In their first efforts, they used an actual inkjet desktop printer that was modified to print cells into a 3D shape. Cells were placed in the wells of the ink cartridge and the printer was programmed to print them in a certain order. The printer is now part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.
In 2016, the institute announced success printing living tissue structures using a specialized 3D printer that its researchers designed over a decade. The scientists printed ear, bone and muscle structures that, when implanted in animals, matured into functional tissue and developed a system of blood vessels. These early results indicate that the printed structures have the right size, strength and function for use in humans. The series of experiments proved the feasibility of printing living tissue structures to replace injured or diseased tissue in patients.