05 June 2010
The difference in bio–printing is that instead of layers of plastics, a 3D bio–printer uses layers upon layers of biological building blocks to create real, living tissue
Doctors might one day be able to ‘print’ living body parts they need for surgery, including blood vessels and entire organs, dailymail.co.uk has reported. The astonishing technique is known as bio–printing and it could make the transplant list a thing of the past.
Currently patients on the transplant list have to wait months or even years before a suitable organ becomes available. But the 3D bio–printer, developed by US company Organovo, is already capable of growing arteries and its developers say arteries ‘printed’ by the device could be used in heart bypass surgery in five years.
More complex organs such as hearts,teeth and bone should be possible within ten years. The technology is based upon existing systems which create 3D models of components in industry. The difference in bio–printing is that instead of layers of plastics, a 3D bio–printer uses layers upon layers of biological building blocks to create real, living tissue.
The concept is in its infancy but a working prototype of the first machine became available for testing at the end of last year. The cells are layered in circles and sandwich a gel between them. They then reform to create a new artery. The printer uses cells from the patient’s body so they will not be rejected. A 3D model of the organ or artery to be printed is made first before layers of the cells are placed on top of each other.
Organovo chief executive Keith Murphy told the Engineer magazine, "Ultimately, the idea would be for surgeons to have tissue on demand for various uses." Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people who have damaged their knee cartilage may be able to regrow a replacement. The cutting–edge MACI, or matrixinduced chondrocyte implantation, begins with the surgeon scraping a small amount of healthy cartilage from the patient’s knee.The sample is shipped to a specialist lab, where a cocktail of chemicals coax the cartilage cells into growing.
In the hospital, the surgeon removes the damaged cartilage and plugs the hole with the lab–grown cartilage, which is stitched into place. Centres using the MACI technique include the Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield