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Scientists Have 3D Printed Human Replacements for Injured or Diseased Tissues

First Posted: Feb 16, 2016 08:31 AM EST

Imagine "printing" replacement tissue. That's exactly what researchers are aiming for. Now, scientists have proved that it's possible to print living tissue structures to replace injured or diseased tissue in patients.

"This novel tissue and organ printer is an important advance in our quest to make replacement tissue for patients," said Anthony Atala, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue of any shape. With further development, this technology could potentially be used to print living tissue and organ structures for surgical implantation."

Tissue engineering is a science that aims to grow replacement tissue and organs in the laboratory to help solve the shortage of donated tissue available for transplants. The precision of 3D printing makes it a promising method for replicating the body's complex tissues and organs. However, current printers based on jetting, extrusion and laser-induced forward transfer can't produce structures with sufficient size or strength to implant in the body.

With that said, the researchers have now developed the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP). This system deposits biodegradable, plastic-like materials to form the tissue "shape" and then water-based gels that contain the cells. In addition, a strong, temporary outer structure is formed and the printing process doesn't harm the cells.

These latest steps could be huge when it comes to creating tissues that can be used for patients. Already, researchers have shown that the printer can print human-sized external ears that can be implanted and used.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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