Printing Organs With A 3D Printer

[Jordan Miller], [Christopher Chen], and a whole bunch of other researchers at the department of bioengineering at U Penn have figured out a way to print 3D tissues using a 3D printer. In this case, a RepRap modified to print sugar.

Traditional means of constructing living 3D tissues face a problem – in a living body, there’s a whole bunch of¬†vasculature sending Oxygen and nutrients to the interior cells. In vitro, these nutrients can’t get to the cells in the core of a mass of tissue. [Jordan], [Chris], et al. solved this problem by printing a three-dimensional sugar lattice. After encasing this lattice in a gel embedded with living cells, the sugar can be dissolved and the nutrients pumped through the now hollow capillaries in the gel.

If you have access to Nature, the full text article is available here. There’s also a great video showing off this technique after the break.


24 thoughts on “Printing Organs With A 3D Printer

  1. What a coincidence, sort of, I’ve been trying to print parts of my skeleton (non functional of course) the last few days. Well, trying to get a clean model might be more to the point. My only experience is with CAD type 3d, none of this soft mushy stuff. It’s much harder trying to clean up an organic mesh than it is to make models of machine parts I’ve noticed. Especially when programs like meshlab like to crash constantly… I’m probably going to give up on it I think hehe.

      1. I’ve tried it briefly (2-3 hours or so). It looks like a powerful program and could probably do what I need but the interface… my goodness the interface. It makes me want to punch puppies. I mean I couldn’t even find a damn button to close the current document, it’s silly. I also had to download an older version of it since the newest liked to crash as soon as I selected the knife tool for some reason.

        What I need to do is to cover up a few holes in the model, smooth it all out (meshlab did a good job here), make it solid (lots of weird voids and such from the DICOM exporter) and then lastly simplify it (it’s got a gigantic amount of faces right now). Oh yeah, and I need to divide it up into 3-4 parts so it’ll fit.

        I might have to give it a rest for a bit, I spent all weekend on it trying out around 5-6 different programs for different purposes. But I will say that anyone who can get their hospital to give them a copy of your CT-files (you want the DICOM files) should give it a go just to mess around looking at your body on the inside, it’s a lot of fun. I just wish I had a more complete set, I only have my midsection for now.

      2. Blender, like most dedicated applications, has a learning curve. Once you get the idea of where certain functions should be, it becomes quite clear almost immediately.

        And the X in the upper right? Close document. ^.^ It’s not a multitasking environment, one document per instance.

        OMG I hated Final Cut Pro when I was forced to use it for class, despite it being one of the industry leaders. On the other hand Premiere was quite natural for me because I know Adobe programs. It still had a learning curve, but it wasn’t vertical.

    1. What software are you using to process the DICOM data into an stl? If you haven’t tried it yet, I would recommend using 3D Slicer ( Get the 64bit edition – the 32bit version is a bit buggy. You can then segment out only the bone and export a stl from there…

  2. Someone at Duke University printed two valve frog hearts that would beat and function correctly several years ago. Did it with a seriously hacked up HP printer. Was on an episode of Wired Science on PBS.

  3. There have been experiments washing the cells out of an organ and using the protien matrix left as a scaffold for new cells, this is just the next level, forget the organ and just build the meat scaffold yourself. I like it, I can imagine in the future somebody with a crappy heart has their heart scanned in an MRI, the data is used to print out a heart scaffold, their stem cells are poured in and six months latter the fresh ticker is popped into them. This is going to put a lot of transgennic pigs out of a job though, oh well, there’s always bacon.

  4. the machines already know we are ready for a war with them, they are not planning on reproducing and starting a war with us.

    they are planning on creating thier own humanOID species and slowly reprogram and take over that way.

    only humans born from HUMAN MOTHERS obey the rest of the humans…

    it is when the first living humand is constructed purely from machine and the machine’s intellect (A.I.) that we finally decend into the thrones of the lesser beings, the plauge of humans(sapiens) on the machine’s subordinate (human, non sapien) race.

    PS: so how DOES one take back one’s OWN planet if to do so would involve murder? is murder okay if it is an unnatural creation? (not of god / nature)
    … like it’s okay to waste food if it is bannanas, cuz bannana is the only non natural/god creation plant in existence on this planet. and yes bannanas WERE actually invented by humans.

  5. While it will be great to be able to synthesize complex organs, even just the ability to reliably synthesize simple tissues for use in reconstructive surgery would be of enormous value.

  6. Freaky…now it is just a matter of time until someone pops up with a 3D-printed living copy of himself.
    Anyway, this thing could be very useful for organ reconstruction surgery.

  7. Back to the beginning: reducing amount of triangles

    I have 3Gb meshes (3d scans of a full person) and needed to reduce these to make them usable on a normal laptop.
    I used Zbrush with the plugin Decimation master which worked well and quick. the only disaventage is that zbrush is not free.

    Can blender also reduce the amount of triangles?

  8. Q: with that thing, can u 3d print some hp ink? i.e. for black cartridge some coffee, chinese sauce, plus a bit of other substances? #cloggeless_ink

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