Nov.19, 2013

There have been many applications of 3D printing today, but the medical uses are the most practical and overtime it could really solve help saving people's life once the technology improves.

3D printing has been used to print skin to help burn victims and skin disease patients; it has also help scientists and doctors create stem cells that could eventually develop into both bone and cartilage in the long-term.

A new project believes the technology would be able to make a natural organ replacement from a patient's own fat stem cells. This ambitious 3D-printed heart project aims to solve the problem of heart replacement surgery within a decade.

The Cardiovascular Innovation Institute in Kentucky, United States, is developing custom-built 3D printers which would be able to print out a complete heart, and it includes valves, coronary vessels, microcirculation, contractile cells and the organ's electrical system.

The team recently created and implanted a portion of a heart and blood vessels as part of their heart-printing research. "We think we can do it in 10 years — that we can build, from a patient's own cells, a total 'bioficial' heart." executive and scientific director Stuart Williams said.

Tissues are created using cells derived from an individual's fat and extracted with a machine. They then go into a 3D printer which layers living human tissue in the shapes and patterns needed. The living cells are mixed with a glue that will eventually dissolve inside the body like surgical sutures.

In 2007, Williams and his colleagues received funds from the U.S. Department of Defense to use 3D printing to create a lymph node. They built a 3D printer called the BioAssembly Tool, or BAT in 2001 to create the node for about $400,000. But for this new project they want to build 3D printers from scratch.

"We can print individual components of the heart, but we're building next-generation printers to build the heart from the bottom up," Williams said.

The ultimate goal is to extract a patient's fat, isolate cells with a machine, mix them with the glue and "3D print" a heart — all within an hour.

The printers are likely not be able to reach the "resolution" requirement for building a fully functional heart, said Williams. 3D printers may only print structures with the size of millimeters, whereas the smallest blood vessels can have a width of just a few microns, Williams explained. But scientists will rely on the natural self-organizing tendency of cells to connect everything within a 3D-printed organ.

Williams said the total bioficial heart could cost about $100,000 and plus $150,000 or so hospital and surgery costs. But that's still less than the current heart transplant, and doesn't require ongoing costs for anti-rejection drugs.

via: Livescience


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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