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We Can Now 3D Print “Living” Tissues

Kristina Müller
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The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine reported in mid-February in Nature Biology successfully printing tissue with a custom-designed 3D printer, called ITOP (Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System).

The structures proved to be functional when implanted in animals. MedicalExpo talked to Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the institute and senior author of the study.

MedicalExpo: Dr. Atala, you have printed tissue before. How is your latest accomplishment a breakthrough?

Dr. Anthony Atala: We started research on printing human-scale tissues twelve years ago. Finally, we can print structures that can be implanted surgically, that survive outside a laboratory and that have the structural integrity to function once implanted. We have a solution to the challenge of providing the printed tissue with the nutrition it needs and therewith to ensure that the implanted structures live long enough to integrate with the body.

MedicalExpo: How did you make it functional?

Dr. Anthony Atala: We created microchannels that go into the structures. These microchannels are like highways that allow the nutrients and oxygen from the body to get to the central portion of the structure, so that it gets the nutrition it needs. The implants can then develop a system of blood vessels.

MedicalExpo: Have you tried it in humans?

Dr. Anthony Atala: No. We developed a wide range of tissues in terms of their strength. We printed soft tissue, which is muscles. We printed medium-strength tissue, which is cartilage. And we printed strong structures, which are bones. This was to show that the printer is able to print all of them. We implanted them in mice and rats. Months later, blood vessels had formed.

Courtesy of WFIRM
Courtesy of WFIRM

ITOP 3D printer (Courtesy of WFIRM)

3D Printed Ear Scaffolds (Courtesy of WFIRM)

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