A team of researchers has developed a new method that allows them to 3D print human cells.
Engineers from the University of Utah have reportedly developed a new printing method that now allows them to 3D print human cells. The researchers claim that their new process can improve the recovery of patients with severely damaged tendons, ligaments, or ruptured discs.
“It will allow patients to receive replacement tissues without additional surgeries and without having to harvest tissue from other sites, which has its own source of problems,” Robby Bowles, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, said.
In their study published in the Journal of Tissue Engineering, the researchers explained in detail how they successfully printed human connective tissues.
The process reportedly includes taking stem cells from a patient’s body fat and printing them on a hydrogel layer to create the tissues. These connective tissues can then be grown in vitro in a culture to form either tendons or ligaments for implants.
While the process seems straightforward, the researchers noted that it is incredibly complicated due to the different cells in intricate patterns that make up the tissues. For instance, tendon and ligament cells have to be gradually shifted to bone cells so the tissue can be attached to the bone.
However, the researchers claim that this novel method can give them more control over how they 3D print the human cells and form the tissues.
“This is a technique in a very controlled manner to create a pattern and organizations of cells that you could not create with previous technologies. It allows us to very specifically put cells where we want them,” Bowles, added.
The University of Utah researchers work in partnership with microfluidic device manufacturer Carterra to develop the unique printhead they attached to the 3D printer to print the human cells. The team’s next plan is to expand the coverage of their 3D printing innovation to include entire organs.
The concept of 3D printing human cells has been the stuff of science fiction for decades. Now, these new developments may make it possible to create entirely new body parts from just one cell sample. If feasible, this will completely revolutionize the healthcare industry and bring us into a post-sci-fi healthcare system.