Mar.28, 2013

In February scientists annouced that they have printed human embryonic stem cells using a specialised 3D printing process. Currently 3D printing of stem cells is in early testing and the team from Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, led by Dr. Will Wenmiao Shu hope that soon they could be able to create human tissue using stem cells as "ink".

(Credit: Heriot-Watt University)

A range of human stem cell cultures can now be grown in laboratory conditions. Those cultures developed from cells from areas like bone marrow or skin are hardier but less flexible than those developed from embryonic material.

Bioengineer Alan Faulkner-Jones built the printer using parts from an old 3D printer. Using a valve-based technique researchers could print the more delicate embryonic cell cultures which have an ability to replicate indefinitely and differentiate into almost any cell type in the human body. "The printer creates 3D spheroids using delicate embryonic cell cultures floating in a "bio ink" medium. They end up looking like little bubbles. Each droplet can contain as few as five stem cells." After testing, more than 95 percent of the cells were still alive 24 hours after being printed, and three days later more than 89 percent of the cells were still alive and viable for replication.

(Credit: Heriot-Watt University)

Dr Shu said, "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that these cells have been 3D printed. The technique will allow us to create more accurate human tissue models which are essential to in vitro drug development and toxicity-testing. Since the majority of drug discovery is targeting human disease, it makes sense to use human tissues.

The team hope that they could create a human liver by 2015. "In the longer term, we envisage the technology being further developed to create viable 3D organs for medical implantation from a patient's own cells, eliminating the need for organ donation, immune suppression and the problem of transplant rejection."

Dr Shu's team are working with Roslin Cellab, a leading stem cell technology company. The company has a good track record of applying new technologies to human stem cell systems and will take the lead in developing 3D stem cell printing for commercial uses.


Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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