3D printing technology has gained secure ground in the last decade. These machines are constantly reinvented, only by modifying the work scale or material type. Biomedical engineers thought to use them too. A small, modified desktop printer, with cells in the print cartridge can lay down an organ in as much as seven or eight hours. Scientists have been experimenting with arranging layers of cells on top of each other to print a kidney, for example.
Researchers are looking at new ways to use this technology to print tissues and organs directly in the patient’s body. They started with skin cells printing, as the present solution with skin grafts is impractical. Most of the patients with burns do not have enough unaffected skin to cover the areas affected by burns. In addition, the risk of infection is big, as the time skin takes to heal is too long. The printed cells directly on the burned area can solve these problems. A portable skin printer will scan the cells, take cells from the patient and eventually print directly in the injured area. Studies conducted on mice have revealed that the time for healing has gone up to half. With classic skin transplant it took five weeks to heal, in comparison with 3D printed skin cells, that took only three.
Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have gone even further. They grew soft muscle tissues, which two weeks after implantation in lab mice started to vascularize and form nerves. They also tested bone printing with the help of human stem cells and implanted them in mice after a small jaw bone fragment was printed for a facial reconstruction. This time, the tissues had grown mature in five months and started its vascular bone tissue. The future looks a little brighter with the help of bio ink!