The potential of 3D printing is reaching new heights. Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland are experimenting using human embryonic stem cells as the ink to build printed human organs for testing and transplantation. The new process allows scientists to build up layers of human stem cells with a special movable nozzle inside the printer that can control the rate cells are dispersed. This acts as a “print out” of stem cells which could be used to create artificial organs for humans.
The researchers reportedly opted for using embryonic stem cells over other types of human stem cells because they’re more flexible than those from areas such as bone marrow or skin.
The long-term goal is to one day create purpose-built replacement organs for patients who today rely on organ donation. These 3D organs would eliminate the issue of immune suppression and, along with it, the problem of transplant rejection.
A biomedical microengineering group at the University developed a new valve-based technique to print the delicate embryonic cell cultures. It’s these cultures that can be grown and replicate indefinitely.
More immediate application of the 3D printing is the growth of human tissue models for in-vitro drug development and toxicity testing.
The Scotland researchers aren’t the first to use stem cells for 3D printing. Organovo developed the NovoGen MMX Bioprinter, designed to create tissue on demand for research and surgical applications.