Broken Bone? Soon You Will Be Able To 3D Print A New One

US scientists have created a prototype 3D bioprinter capable of creating human-scale, structurally stable tissues in any shape. Their study explores the capabilities of the new bioprinter for fabricating bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle using human as well as animal cells. And they've succeeded in making the printouts human-sized.

3D bioprinters are machines that print cells in layered patterns with the aim of creating a functional tissue or organ. However, the resulting constructs are often structurally unstable and too fragile for surgical implantation. And because they lack blood vessels, their size is constrained by the diffusion limit for nutrients and oxygen, which is around 200 micrometers -- too small to make most human tissues and organs.

Anthony Atala and colleagues addressed the problem of structural stability by printing cells together with biodegradable polymer materials that confer mechanical strength until the newly forming tissue matures. To overcome the size limit and produce large tissues, they integrated microchannels into the construct design so that nutrients and oxygen can be delivered to cells anywhere in the structure.

The researchers demonstrate an approach for customising the shape of printed constructs to the needs of individual patients. They use clinical imaging to create a 3D computer model of the missing tissue, and translate the model into a program that guides the printer nozzles that dispense cells.

The study explores the capabilities of the new bioprinter for fabricating bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle using human, rabbit, rat and mouse cells. Future refinements that will be required to make transplantable tissues include the use of clinical-grade human cells (ideally derived from the patient) and a wider variety of cell types printed in patterns that replicate native tissues.

[Nature Biotechnology]

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    This is quite exciting. It's still early in the stages as they need to ensure they are able to integration capillaries and blood vessels in larger organs. But the day is coming when organ transplants no longer have waiting lists, simply waiting times for your new organ to print.

    Seriously, the day is going to come when the rich are able to simply print an entirely new body....that's both exciting and frightening. Combine this technology with the ability to transplant an entire human brain (which scientists are currently working on), and bodies.

    This is looking more and more like Peter F. Hamilton's future...except without all the wormholes...someone get on that please.

    I wonder why teeth aren't 3D printed yet. Or are they?

      They're currently looking at how to grow them in your mouth. Give it another decade or two.

    I read the heading and was thinking I really, really wouldn't want to experience bone replacement.

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