We are a big step closer to 3D printing organs for transplantation
About 17 people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant. One way to deliver more organs to patients who need them would be to make them from scratch by 3D printing them as living tissue on demand. Scientists have been able to 3D “bio-print” artificial human tissue for clinical research purposes for about two decades now.
However, 3D printed organs would run into the same major problem as traditional organs: childbirth. A new organ from a donor is only viable for a few hours because it is quickly transported from one place to another. It should be kept cool, but not too cold, as extremely low temperatures would effectively damage cells and render the organ unusable. 3D printed fabrics have the same short shelf life.
A team of American scientists believe they have found a solution to this problem. In the new findings published in the journal Matter, they report a new way to 3D print and preserve tissues in sub-freezing conditions while keeping them viable. The team calls their new technique “cryobioprinting”.
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âIt’s always been that you had to print out a tissue and use it right away,â study co-author Y. Shrike Zhang, a biomedical engineer at Harvard University, told The Daily Beast. âThis limits the ability of these constructions to be stored and / or transported between locations. In 2017, we started thinking, ‘can we design ways to bioprint and store tissue simultaneously? “”
In traditional 3D tissue printing, a “biological ink” made up of living cells and mixed with a gelatin-like substance is essentially applied to a surface layer by layer, until you get the tissue structure you want. search. Cryo-printing works much the same way, except that the bio-ink is printed on a cold plate, at -20 degrees Celsius.
What’s particularly new is that the new bioink that Zhang and his team developed freezes within milliseconds of printing, so that a 3D tissue structure is built without fear of losing its shape. This means that very complex and intricate tissues can develop over time, opening the door to the bioprinting of whole organs believed to perform a wide range of physiological functions.
In order to ensure that these new tissues can safely withstand freezing temperatures, Zhang and his team applied dimethyl sulfoxide and various sugars to the bioink. âThey have long been used in conventional cryogenic storage for cells and tissues, but their integration into a bioink design has never been done before,â said Zhang.
During the study, the researchers demonstrated that the tissues could be safely frozen for at least three months before being thawed and brought back to life. The tissue cells have been shown to be as functional and healthy as they would have been under normal conditions.
This is a very early development in the world of bioprinting. Zhang readily admits that many more in-depth studies are needed before we’re ready to 3D print a functioning human organ, let alone freeze one and revive it. At the very least, however, this new breakthrough will make it much easier for clinical scientists to experiment with 3D tissues and find ways to bring us closer to the goal of using 3D printed organs to someday save the life of those in need of an organ transplant.
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