NEW PAPER ADVANCES ORGAN PRINTING
NEW PAPER ADVANCES ORGAN PRINTING
2005-11-22 at 11:01:00 am #13019
New Paper Advances Organ Printing
Nov. 2005- Thin sheets of a gel-like material could help advance organ printing, a technology that uses a printer and cell-laden ink to turn out living tissues, blood vessels and organs.
The research, reported in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters, represents a new model for this branch of tissue engineering and could benefit the millions of people worldwide who suffer from damage to organs such as kidneys and livers.
“It’s basically enabling part of the technology. If you don’t have a good bio-paper and bio-ink, you’re not going to get anywhere,” said Glenn Prestwich, presidential professor at the University of Utah.
Prestwich collaborated on the research with scientists from the University of Missouri and the Medical University of South Carolina.
The idea behind organ printing is relatively simple: print cells onto thin sheets of biodegradable paper; stack thousands of sheets of the paper on top of each other; when the paper disintegrates, the cells will be left intact to form a three-dimensional shape, such as a hollow blood vessel.
Until now, scientists have tried different materials to use as the paper, including agarose, which is made from seaweed extract, and collagen, which is a protein found naturally in the body.
Agarose does not work well in organ printing because it does not biodegrade. Collagen biodegrades, but it also has a tendency to contract and shrink, which makes it difficult to get nutrients in and out of the embedded cells.
The new bio-paper developed by Prestwich and his team biodegrades without shrinking. It is made by connecting long molecular chains of sugar, which result in a jello-like hydrogel.
The cells are mixed in with the gel and put into a standard inkjet printer cartridge. The machine then spits out a gel sheet embedded with cellular dots containing a minuscule amount – about 1 microliter each.
The bio-paper capitalizes on the natural ability of cells to repair tissue.
Cells embedded into the bio-paper secrete enzymes that eat up the hydrogel; produce a biological matrix for new cells; and they multiple and divide to create new cells. Eventually, the cells migrate, fuse together, and become a functioning tissue.
“Printing technology is really the next frontier in terms of the generation of tissues and organs,” said Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Cells can already be painted by hand onto a biological scaffold.
“This is analogous to going from a handheld paint brush to an air brush,” he said.
The challenge is figuring out what printing method works best for what tissue and how best to incorporate the blood vessel network into the tissue to deliver nutrients to the cells.
To date, Prestwich, who is also the founder of Salt Lake City-based Sentrx Surgical, a company licensed to use this technology, and his team have been able to create tubular shapes like blood vessels.
He hopes that within three to six years, a version of this technology could be available to patients.
Print Skin with Inkjet Printers
- You have a printer. What would you normally do with it? Print documents, probably forms and even a few photographs? Did you ever think you could print skin for yourself? How about organs, or even notebook screens?
If you think I’ve lost all of my senses, you are more wrong than Bill Gates was about future memory requirements.
So what exactly am I talking about? Researchers at the University of Manchester have developed an exciting technology where you take cells from the patient’s body and feed them into the computer. The system then analyses and multiplies them to the required level, which then fills up as “ink” in the first cartridge while the second cartridge contains the necessary gel. Once the process has started, multiple print layers ensure that a complex 3D skin is created and the dimensions are exactly as required.
Perhaps Adobe needs to come up with a plug-in for this in Photoshop. What if I want my skin to be a different color? I don’t want to go through the pain of a tattoo, so I just feed in some of my cells, make some funky designs on the skin and slap them on me. It’s fairly simple, unless you want to get to the complexities of how it works.
Similarly, researchers at Cambridge have just used Inkjet technology to create a 14″ OLED screen for notebook computers. Again, since we are using printers, I could get my notebook screen in whatever shape I desire. Since they are printing it, it’s obviously pretty thin, and for all we know, I might even be able to fold away my TV whenever I don’t need it, assuming we use specific polymers to make that happen.
This gets me thinking about the possibilities. Lets leave medical science to the doctors as they are far more adept at it, but I must tell you that the Inkjets used here were really not too different from the printers we buy for our computing needs.
Imagine the speed and cost cutting that hardware designers could achieve if 3D modelling became feasible and commercially available. Say you wanted to design a gaming wheel, or indeed a whole car. You won’t have to sit with a model shop representative creating scaled models using foam or other applications. All you would have to is design the product of your choice using AutoCAD or whatever 3D modeling software catches your fancy and hit print. The printer will then proceed to build an exact replica of whatever you designed.
This gives the designer a lot more control over the way 3D models get created, and it saves time and finances for companies, which they can pass on to their customers (alright, they probably won’t but I have the right to dream, don’t I?).
Tomorrow, if we really get the concept of cloning and duplicating cells, wouldn’t this technology make life easier (or not)? Imagine you want a 60watt bulb for your house. All you would have to do is feed 60watt and put in some broken glass; the printer will then proceed to print the bulb for you. This may be far fetched, but who knows?
Could we take cloning and Inkjet technology far enough to generate entire human beings? That would really cause uproar in some communities, but staying on the less controversial side, maybe I could print two 7800GTXs, a motherboard and an X2 CPU to build my latest and greatest PC. Oh well, maybe I really have lost my hat this time, but it would be an interesting technological development nonetheless.