*NEWS*CHANGING THE WORLD WITH A PRINTER

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*NEWS*CHANGING THE WORLD WITH A PRINTER

 user 2006-02-15 at 10:11:00 am Views: 84
  • #14199

    Changing the World With a Printer
    Scientists Want to ‘Print’ Organs Rather Than Wait for Them to be Donated
    Feb. 
    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?
    In what
    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.
    Researchers
    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
    organs.
    “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
    our mission.”
    What’s in a Name?
    Though the field is young, it already has a multitude of names.
    “Some
    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.
    “What
    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.
    Boland
    says that there is some liquid in the dish and that in place of ink
    cartridges are cartridges filled with cells and a “crosslinker.”
    The
    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
    Right now,
    scientists are limited to a maximum of about 2 inches of thickness.
    Crossing that threshold presents one of the technique’s first big
    hurdles.
    “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,”
    Boland said.
    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
    tissue.”
    Rapid Prototyping
    The concept behind organ printing is one that’s been used in the manufacturing world for years, “rapid prototyping.”
    “Rapid
    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.
    Guttenberg’s Press
    Though
    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,
    that’s it.”
    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.
    Indeed
    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.