Feb.6, 2014

Utrecht's experimental tissue factory aims to use research and 3D printing technology to break new ground in biofabrication and bring living, 3D-printed cartilage one step closer to becoming a reality.

The experimental tissue factory is currently being developed by Utrecht Life Sciences which is an open innovation network in the Netherlands, uniting Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht, government, and business. The factory will consist of two cleanrooms where 3D bioprinters and cell culture facilities are installed and will focus on orthopedic 3D printing applications such as the repair of bone and cartilage.

3D printing technology is a great tool for repairing damaged tissue – and may be a game changer for regenerative medicine where 3D printing is being used to create three-dimensional implants with living cells that have the structure of a real tissue, such as bone or cartilage.

The implants will work with the body's natural healing ability. The advantages of such 3D printed implants for patients is that they don't need to wait for treatment until their joints are no longer functional. Instead, healing can be stimulated using a piece of cartilage or bone made, layer-by-layer, using 3D bioprinting. During an operation, living, 3D printed tissue would be inserted into the body at a desired location. The living tissue implant would encourage the body to produce new cells which would adapt and grow around the implant. For people with broken or shattered bones, such 3D printed implants may speed up the recovery process.

Below is an example of a 3D printed structure. Stem cells can be injected into a 3D printed hollow tube to develop blood vessels. A is a computer model, C is 3D printed tube.

Image credit: UMC Utrecht

The Utrecht tissue factory will be completed in 2014, and will also be available to other universities, research institutes, and companies that wish to carry out scientific research.

The two men who initiated the tissue factory project in Utrecht are Professor Wouter Dhert, Chair of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells Research and Dr. Jos Malda who are both from the UMC Utrecht and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University. According to professor Dhert, Utrecht's tissue factory will be a unique facility in the world of 3D bioprinting. And a place where knowledge and infrastructure will come together.

Utrecht plans to meet the expected increase in demand for highly skilled biomedical engineers in the field of biofabrication by offering a new degree program to develop the skills necessary for success in this growing field.

The program, Master BIOFAB (Biofabrication Training for Future Manufacturing) will begin in the 2014 academic year and coexist with the current Master Regenerative Medicine & Technology. Utrecht University is offering this program in cooperation with three international partners: Universität Würzburg (Germany) and Queensland University of Technology and University of Wollongong (both from Australia). Grants totaling € 650,000 Euros have come from the European and Australian governments in support of the program which will be the first in the world to offer a specific curriculum for the new field of biofabrication – in which 3D printing technology plays a central role.

Update May 29, 2014:

BBC Click's Jen Copestake went to the Netherlands to meet some of the scientists working on the project and find out more.


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editor-b wrote at 2/6/2014 1:04:17 PM:

Indeed, as well as food is printed from its ingredients or organs and tissue are printed from already living parts, will it be possible to print living cells directly? Perhaps, a tiny virus or a basic cell from simple molecules or atoms? Therefore, step by step, print the whole human being, printing a dream from a stem cell too? Or at least, to print those interrelated genes that by their instructive nature develop complex-working living beings spontaneously? In any case, anything other than a 4D-prosthesis, a tool, an organic robot, a human-like biobot? Or rather, a pampered child of technology? The first child emerging from inert stuff entirely? Something like a modern Frankenstein? Along these lines, there is a peculiar book, a public preview in http://goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion for mind leisure, far away from dogmas or axioms

alvaro wrote at 2/6/2014 10:56:08 AM:

An exemple that must be followed!



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