3D Printed Replacement Tissue

Remarkable experiments demonstrate the ability to 3D print replace damaged or diseased tissue.


(3D printed ear)

A challenge for tissue engineering is producing three-dimensional (3D), vascularized cellular constructs of clinically relevant size, shape and structural integrity. We present an integrated tissue–organ printer (ITOP) that can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue constructs of any shape.

Mechanical stability is achieved by printing cell-laden hydrogels together with biodegradable polymers in integrated patterns and anchored on sacrificial hydrogels. The correct shape of the tissue construct is achieved by representing clinical imaging data as a computer model of the anatomical defect and translating the model into a program that controls the motions of the printer nozzles, which dispense cells to discrete locations. The incorporation of microchannels into the tissue constructs facilitates diffusion of nutrients to printed cells, thereby overcoming the diffusion limit of 100–200 μm for cell survival in engineered tissues.

We demonstrate capabilities of the ITOP by fabricating mandible and calvarial bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle. Future development of the ITOP is being directed to the production of tissues for human applications and to the building of more complex tissues and solid organs.

I've found a couple of early science fiction works that point to this work. In his epochal play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), Karel Capek describes the factories in which the bones, organs, veins and other tissues for organic robots (we'd probably call them androids) are manufactured:

The spinning mill for nerves. The spinning mill for veins. The spinning mill where miles and miles of digestive tract are made at once. Then there's the assembly plant where all of this is put together, you know, like automobiles. Each worker is responsible for affixing one part, and then it automatically moves on to a second worker, then to a third, and so on.
(Read more about the spinning mill for veins)

As far as 3D printing living tissue is concerned, I ran across a fascinating description of a process for teleportation in The Cosmic Express, a 1930 story by Jack Williamson:

...In a parallel manner, the focal plane of the Express Ray moves slowly through the object, progressively, dissolving layers of the thickness of a single atom, which are accurately reproduced at the other focus of the instrument--which might be in Venus!

"But the analogy of the lens is the better of the two. For no receiving instrument is required, as in television. The object is built up of an infinite series of plane layers, at the focus of the ray,
(Read more about Cosmic Express)

This is exactly how 3D printing works: objects are built up, one plane layer at a time.

It amazes me that these ideas have been floating around for a long time, close to a century, and they're coming true in our lifetimes.

Via A 3D bioprinting system to produce human-scale tissue constructs with structural integrity.

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