Jan 16, 2015 | By Alec

Professor Tsuyoshi Takato, holding a 3D printed ear made from polyactic acid.

It will surprise anyone in the 3D printing community to hear that the technology can be potentially life-saving; over the past year we’ve learned of numerous studies and scientific breakthroughs that could make 3D printed organs, blood vessels and skin tissue a reality over the next couple of years Just this week the Japanese government announced a whole round of investments aimed at developing 3D printable human organs.

But now more news has surfaced from Tokyo, where scientists have announced that they are well on their way with the development of a ‘next-generation bio 3D printer’ that can produce biomaterials through layers of stem cells, proteins and collagen-like synthetic materials. Professor Tsuyoshi Takato, who leads the research at the University of Tokyo Hospital, said the machine looked very hopeful.

Theoretically, the machine will be able to read Computer Tomography scans like a desktop FDM printer reads STL files, and then simply prints tissue structures within a matter of hours. This could be anything, from ‘mimicking the structure of organs’ to the both the hard surface and soft innards of bone. And as they are based on a scan of a person’s own body, these implants will be highly accurate and should fit perfectly in whatever organ needs replacing. If all goes well, the body won’t even negatively respond to it.

The process, as Takato explained to AFP, will be a far-cry from traditional implantation techniques. ‘We usually take cartilage or bone from the patient's own body (for regular implants), but these custom-made implants will mean not having to remove source material.’ It could therefore even be used in the tragic cases of children being born with bone or cartilage problems.

Really the main problem that is currently being tackled by Tokyo scientists is one facing most developers of bio-printing: how do you cope with the cell-damaging heat that 3D printers generate? Takato stated that, while they have some methods they are testing, nothing is conclusive yet. ‘We haven't fully worked out how to avoid heat denaturation but we already have some models and are exploring which offers the most efficient method.’

His team of scientists has been expanding on earlier work by the Tokyo-based firm Next 21 and affiliated governmental institutions, who developed the CT-bone, a type of scaffolding inserted into fractured bones made from calcium phosphate. The growth of natural bone overtakes the CT-bone in a few years, which is consumed into your body.

While that project did not use stem cells, their inclusion could change a lot about the assimilation process. Another vital new component is the artificial protein used by Takato’s team, which has been developed by (strangely enough) by Fujifilm. While most proteins used in medical science are derived from cows and other animals (thus bringing along a chance of infection), this stuff is synthetic.

Finally, Takato stated that their machine would be ready for clinical trials focussed on human skin within the next three years. Bone, cartilage and joints should follow in the years afterwards. With the Russians promising to 3D print a human organ by 2018, while various American institutes are also exploring 3D bioprinting, this whole specialization is almost turning into a race.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive