One step further towards organ regeneration.
A Chinese biotechnological company claims to be have created the world’s first 3D blood vessel bio-printer, which could pave the way, in theory, to producing personalised, functional organs. One of the major stumbling blocks in tissue engineering is supplying artificial tissue with nutrients, and scientists around the world have been working for years on trying to create artificial blood vessels.
“The core of the printer is the BioBrick, in which there are stem cells. Given certain environments and certain conditions, stem cells can, according to our needs, differentiate into the cells we need,” says Revotek chief scientist Kang Yujian.
At the heart of the technology is a stem cell culture system that consists of seed cells and bio-inks filled with growth factors and nutrients. When combined with other materials, the 3D bioprinter creates layered cell structures that can be cultivated to form tissues with physiological functions.
“The achievement here in producing a 3D blood vessel bio-printer is not just that we can print a blood vessel, but we have found a way of keeping vascular cells and other substances active. The method can be used to print blood vessels, but also livers, kidneys and other organs,” says Dai Kerong of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
While the prospect of a 3D-printed kidney, liver or heart remains years off, as creating entire organs involves work that is impossible today, the good news is that 3D printing does have the potential to help patients today in many other ways.