Rapid Printing Moves Toward 3D-Printed Tissue, Organs

Ruogang Zhao, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, University at Buffalo, is at the forefront of a technological development that significantly speeds up the production of 3D-printed human tissue and organs.

This biotechnology could eventually save countless lives lost due to the shortage of donor organs.

Much Faster Than Industry Standard

The significance of the research is shown in a seven-second video — which is sped up from 19 minutes — that shows a machine dipping into a shallow vat of translucent yellow goo and pulling out what becomes a life-sized hand.

“The technology we’ve developed is 10-50 times faster than the industry standard, and it works with large sample sizes that have been very difficult to achieve previously,” says Zhao, the study’s co-lead author.

Fast and Accurate Printing

The work is described in a study published Feb. 15 in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

It centers on a 3D printing method called stereolithography and jelly-like materials known as hydrogels, which are used to create, among things, diapers, contact lenses and scaffolds in tissue engineering.

The latter application is particularly useful in 3D printing, and it’s something the research team spent a major part of its effort optimizing to achieve its incredibly fast and accurate 3D printing technique.

“Our method allows for the rapid printing of centimeter-sized hydrogel models. It significantly reduces part deformation and cellular injuries caused by the prolonged exposure to the environmental stresses you commonly see in conventional 3D printing methods,” says the study’s other co-lead author, Chi Zhou, PhD, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Researchers say the method is particularly suitable for printing cells with embedded blood vessel networks, a nascent technology expected to be a central part of the production of 3D-printed human tissue and organs.

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