posted on August 08, 2013 |
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Printers are quickly becoming standard apparatus in biomedical engineering labs across the globe. To keep up with this trend, researchers at the Hangzhou University of Electronic Science and Technology have created China’s first domestically produced bioprinter.
The Hangzhou team, led by Xu Ming-En, built their bioprinter to operate using consecutive layers of hydrogel that can be embedded with cells. As this process happens over and over, a biomaterial is built. According to the Hangzhou team, their new printer is highly accurate, creates materials with a low cell damage rate, and has two nozzles for injecting materials at both high and low temperatures.
In recent tests, Xu has created objects like a thumb sized ear in roughly fifty minutes, not counting the time spent “curing” the print in a cross-linking agent. While printing grotesques like miniature ears is proof that the process works, Xu says that his printer is also capable of printing more complex tissues, such as liver lobules. In fact, Xu explains, “The process takes around forty minutes to an hour".
For the time being, Xu’s bioprinter will be used to build muscle fiber and blood vessels, while also perfecting their method for building cartilage-based features, like ears and noses. As his printer becomes more sophisticated, Xu hopes to create more complex organs, like livers and kidneys.
If either Xu or any of his contemporaries could develop a sufficiently sophisticated bio printer, the future of organ transplants could be revolutionized. Organs, which today must be carefully matched between donor and recipient, could be built specifically for an individual.
Images Courtesy of Hangzhou University of Electronic Science and Technology