Organovo 3D bio-printer can make human tissue and organs
We already wrote about several 3D printers which are mostly used for rapid prototyping or creating delicious meals out, however 3D printing technology has leapt into a new realm because the Organovo NovoGen 3D bio-printer can build body parts from cells and it recently created the first “printed” human vein. The printer is meant to be used in regenerative medicine.
Instead using donor body parts or performing a surgery to transplant some of your own, the printer could just make a new part for you. The printer, developed by Invetech, is loaded with cartridges of “bio-ink” a substance that acts as a kind of scaffolding for the cells to retain their shape. A sophisticated computer is linked to the printer that is pre-programmed with the 3D blueprint of whatever is being made.
The printer fits inside a standard biosafety cabinet for sterile use. The 3D bio-printers include an intuitive software interface that allows engineers to build a model of the tissue construct before the printer commences the physical constructions of the organs cell-by-cell using automated, laser-calibrated print heads.
It includes two print heads, one for placing human cells, and the other for placing a hydrogel, scaffold, or support matrix. One of the most complex challenges in the development of the printer was being able to repeatedly position the capillary tip, attached to the print head, to within microns. This was essential to ensure that the cells are placed in exactly the right position. Invetech developed a computer controlled, laser-based calibration system to achieve the required repeatability.
Dr. Fred Davis, president of Invetech, which has offices in San Diego and Melbourne, said, “Building human organs cell-by-cell was considered science fiction not that long ago. Through this clever combination of technology and science we have helped Organovo develop an instrument that will improve people’s lives, making the regenerative medicine that Organovo provides accessible to people around the world.”
This technology could replace other toxic and carbon-heavy medicinal practices like using artificial parts in the human body if the method proves the body accepts printed parts. Invetech plan to ship a number of 3D bio-printers to Organovo during 2010 and 2011 as a part of the instrument development program. Organovo will be placing the printers globally with researchers in centers of excellence for medical research.