Chinese researchers, XU Ming-En and his team in Hangzhou University of Electronic Science and Technology have developed China's first 3D bio-printer: "Regenovo".
In the lab, a 3D bio-printer is printing liver lobule (liver tissue). "The process takes around 40 mins to 1 hour". said Xu.
The astonishing technique is known as bio-printing. So instead of layers of plastics, a 3D bio-printer uses layers upon layers of biological building blocks to create real, living tissue.
"Before printing you can preview the print path of each layer and determine suitable speed and temperature. But the system is not yet smart enough, sometimes you have to control it manually." explained Xu.
The entire printing chamber and nozzles are kept in a low temperature, around 0 °C for cells. Special designed nozzles and material curing technology could increase the cells' survival rate up to 90% or more, said Xu.
According to Xu, this 3D bio printer has several advantages:
- high accuracy
- it can print high viscosity materials
- cell damage rate in the printing process is low
- special designed double nozzles for low and high temperature
- operating temperature range from -5 °C to 260 °C
The concept is still in its infancy. A sheet of water-based hydrogel is deposited first onto a printing surface, then followed by a circle of cells. The process is then repeated layer by layer until a stack of sheets - the new organ is finished.
It takes about 50 minutes to print a thumb-sized ear. Once the printing is completed, it will take some more time for solidification. "The 3D printed tissue is very soft, it needs a cross-linking agent to assist solidification and then be placed in the incubator." said Xu.
The 3D bio-printer could initially be used to build muscle fibres and some blood vessels. Currently Xu and his team have printed the model of human ear, nose and face using medical polymer, inorganic materials, hydrogel and living cells. He hopes in some years biological 3D printing technology may be able to print out liver and kidney that can be transplanted into human body.
Posted in 3D Printers
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