*NEWS*CHANGING THE WORLD WITH A PRINTER
*NEWS*CHANGING THE WORLD WITH A PRINTER
2006-02-15 at 10:11:00 am #14199
Changing the World With a Printer
Scientists Want to ‘Print’ Organs Rather Than Wait for Them to be Donated
2006 – - What if the tens of thousands of people waiting for organ
transplants in the United States didn’t have to wait? What if burn
victims could replace their scars with skin that was indistinguishable
from their own? What if an amputee could replace an entire limb with
one that felt, looked and behaved exactly as the original?
could be the first step toward human immortality, scientists say
they’ve found a way to do all of these things and more with the use of
a technology found in many American homes: an ink-jet printer.
around the world say that by using the technology, they can actually
“print” living human tissue and one day will be able to print entire
“The promise of tissue engineering and the promise of ‘organ
printing’ is very clear: We want to print living, three-dimensional
human organs,” Dr. Vladimir Mironov said. “That’s our goal, and that’s
What’s in a Name?
Though the field is young, it already has a multitude of names.
people call this ‘bio-printing.’ Some people call this ‘organ
printing.’ Some people call this ‘computer-aided tissue engineering.’
Some people call this ‘bio-manufacturing,’” said Mironov, associate
professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and one of the
leading researchers in the field.
“It looks like every new guy who joins into this field tries to introduce a new term.”
The commonly used term is “organ printing” and is simple in concept, but incredibly complex and challenging in its execution.
we do is we modify — it’s a regular ink-jet printer — but we do not
use the paper-feed mechanism, so basically we just have a cartridge
moving back and forth and where the paper goes we put a petri dish,”
explained Thomas Boland, an associate professor at Clemson University.
says that there is some liquid in the dish and that in place of ink
cartridges are cartridges filled with cells and a “crosslinker.”
crosslinker is a chemical that causes the liquid in the petri dish to
gel, giving the printer a soft but solid Jell-O-like surface to print
the cells on.
The process can be repeated over and over, adding
liquid, gelling it, printing more cells, and building layer upon layer,
creating three dimensions.
Limitations and Obstacles
scientists are limited to a maximum of about 2 inches of thickness.
Crossing that threshold presents one of the technique’s first big
“When you print something very thick, the cells on the
inside will die — there’s no nutrients getting in there — so we need
to print channels there and hope that they become blood vessels,”
In any given human organ, there are blood vessels
feeding the organ to keep it alive and working properly. Without the
blood vessels, the organ will die and that’s the problem facing
researchers in building an organ for use in a human: How do you get the
printed organ to grow and maintain blood vessels?
Although there are
a few competing schools of thought on this, like most things in
science, work, ingenuity, and maybe a little money are what researchers
say will put printed organs in live humans.
“In the future — maybe
50 years from now — we will be able to make very complex organs and
bones, and very complex tissues,” he said.
And when they can, they
won’t have to worry about rejection because the replacement part will
be catered to the individual receiving it.
“With the printers, we
have the ability to tailor the material very well depending on how much
crosslinker and so on,” Boland said. “So we can actually match the
properties of the heart cell [for example] with the properties of the
The concept behind organ printing is one that’s been used in the manufacturing world for years, “rapid prototyping.”
prototyping is nothing more than layer-by-layer deposition of any
materials,” explained Mironov. “What is new is that instead of ceramic,
instead of polymer, instead of some other nonorganic stuff, we use
living tissue and living cells.”
Rapid prototyping is the process of
quickly turning product designs into actual samples. Using a computer
and a rapid prototype machine, one can build almost any object –
limited only by size, complexity and material.
we may be half-a-century away from being able to print entire organs,
scientists say we’re likely much closer to applications that will
affect everyone’s life.
Boland is working with colleagues at the
Medical University of South Carolina to build tissue to repair a heart
that’s been damaged.
“The problem with heart tissue is that you
can’t generate your own heart cells anymore,” explained Boland. “You’re
born with a number of heart cells — maybe a billion or so — then,
Mironov said there were researchers working with two-dimensional bio-printed materials for work with drugs and toxicity.
Imagine living patches of skin that could be used to test medicines or even cosmetics.
as scientists and researchers work to make organ printing a reality,
Mironov knows full well the potential implications for all of mankind.
“This could have the same impact as Guttenberg’s press,” he said.