Use of hydrogels in novel stereolithography process eyed for fabricating viable tissues for transplants and other biomedical applications. 

By Elizabeth Montalbano 

The Holy Grail of 3D bioprinting is to one day be able to fabricate full-sized human organs and tissues to replace the real thing in cases of transplant surgeries and other biomedical applications.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have made a significant step not only to achieve this endeavor but to do it quickly. A team of researchers there has developed 3D-printing technology that has demonstrated rapid printing of life-sized organs and limbs such as a human hand in less than 20 minutes.

The team—co-led by Ruogang Zhao, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and Chi Zhou, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering—created a 3D-printing method based on stereolithography that uses hydrogels to produce organs quickly. Hydrogels are materials comprised mainly of water that are already used to produce contact lenses and diapers as well as in other applications.

“Our method allows for the rapid printing of centimeter-sized hydrogel models” that “significantly reduces part deformation and cellular injuries caused by the prolonged exposure to the environmental stresses you commonly see in conventional 3D printing methods,” Zhou said in a press statement.

How It Works

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Researchers have created a rapid 3D-bioprinting method called fast hydrogel stereolithography printing (FLOAT) that has the potential to fabricate organs for human transplant. Pictured is a 3D-printed human liver model that includes a vascular network created by the process.

The team published a video that demonstrates how their FLOAT rapid bioprinting method works. They also have filed a provisional patent of the technology, as well as formed a startup company, Float3D, to commercialize it.