Three-dimensional tubes of living tissue have been printed using modified desktop printers filled with suspensions of cells instead of ink. The work is a first step towards printing complex tissues or even entire organs.
“This could have the same kind of impact that Gutenberg’s press did,” claims tissue engineer Vladimir Mironov of the Medical University of South Carolina.
Many labs can now print arrays of DNA, proteins or even cells. But for tissue engineers, the big challenge is creating three-dimensional structures. Mironov became interested when Thomas Boland of Clemson University, also in South Carolina, told Mironov how he could print biomaterials using modified ink-jet printers.
The printers are adapted by washing out the ink cartridges and refilling them with suspensions of, say, cells. The software that controls the viscosity, electrical resistances and temperature of the printing fluids is reprogrammed and the feed systems altered. More here.