15 March 2014
Tissue engineers have already used 3D printers to create thin layers of human tissue. To make complex tissues or organs, however, ‘bio-printers’ must replicate the intricate vascular networks that deliver nutrients and remove waste. Now, researchers can do just that. They’ve designed a machine that can precisely print materials on top of one another in intricate patterns (as seen here) and developed ‘bio-inks’ containing human cells and/or structural proteins that form scaffolds for those cells. Most importantly, the scientists also produced special type of bio-ink that melts when chilled, allowing them to print an interconnected pattern and then suck out the liquid to leave a network of hollow tubes. By seeding those tubes with blood-vessel-lining cells, the researchers made a tissue construct with the beginnings of working blood vessels – the sort of tissue construct that could be used to test the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.
Written by Daniel Cossins
Image courtesy of Jennifer Lewis, David Kolesky and colleagues
The Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Copyright held by original authors
Research published in Advanced Materials, February 2014