3D Printing Organs with the “Bioficial” Technique
Kyle Maxey posted on November 21, 2013 |

3d printing, biology, heart, medicine, blood vessel, organ, scienceWhile most bio-printing experts forecast that mature bio-printers, yet alone printable organs, are still decades away, researchers at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute (CII) in Louisville, KY believe otherwise.

According to Stuart Williams, the CII’s executive and scientific director, blending traditional bio-printing techniques with the body’s natural self-assembling mechanism is the key to 3D printed organs. Williams’ technique, which he’s dubbed “bioficial”, attempts to design around the major stumbling block now confronting researchers.

The human heart, like most organs, is filled with minute blood vessels that wind their way through organ tissue. Unlike the veins we see just beneath our skin, these blood vessels can be a scant micron or so in diameter, making them too fine to print. To bypass this obstacle, Williams suggested that a bio-printed heart should be built in the same way you build airplanes, "Separate the organ into separate components, figure out the best way to make the components, and then put them together."

Once the larger portions of the organ are printed each cardiac component would be left to grow together, leveraging the power of living tissue to bind the components. “We will be printing things in the order of tens of microns or more like hundreds of microns, and then cells will undergo their biological developmental response in order to self-organize correctly," says Williams.

Whether Williams’ plan will ever reach maturity is still in doubt; however, this December the CII plans to roll out what it calls a new generation of 3D printers. Additionally, should the Kentucky based company fulfill their promise to speed up the bio-printed organ timeline, there is no telling the impact if could have on both the medical industry and human health as we know it.

Image Courtesy of MUSC Bioprinting Research Center

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