Did you know you can '3D print' a house, a pizza or even your car? Well, in case you don't and be ready to be fascinated like never before. Biomedical scientists in US have come up with a method for printing a 'live' ear and that too with 'living' cells!
Just in case you aren't aware of this whole new world of printing whatever you feel like, let's give you a background of what the 3D printing actually is. To describe in short 3D printing is the latest development in the printing industry which makes use of additive manufacturing to synthesize a three dimensional object. Well this might sound a bit complicated so have a look at this video by Mashable to find out how these printers actually work!
Well in case these sounds cool, then wait the researchers at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have published a study in Nature Biotechnology journal detailing a new 3D printer that actually makes use of bio-compatible tissues so that they can be used in transplants of various living parts including muscle, cartilage, bone and even a complete human ear. Oh wait, were are talking of a 'living' ear here.
The reason behind emphasizing on the word living will be however be clear soon. Well, the concept of 3D printing an ear isn't quite new. Apparently bio-medics are 3D printing prosthetic ears made of silicon for a few years now. In fact, here's a video depicting how a 3D printed 'dead' ear changed a boy life!
This new study by the bio-medics at the Wake Forest Institute however makes use of a new Integrated Tissue-Organ printer or the ITOP in short. Instead of using the traditional materials like plastic or a silicone, the researchers are utilizing a cell-laden hydrogel for making these basic tissues for the ear. However, the major hurdle that were waiting for the scientist when they kick started their study was to micro channels that will allow nutrition to go in and allow the cells to be nourished.
Researcher Anthony Atala while talking to Mashable stated that the 3D printers they required to take up this task were required to a be much more precise than the ones available in the market. Basically Atala's team has planned to use the micro channels among the cells to effectively mimic capillaries.
In order to test the result of this new 3D printing technology, the researches at the Wake Forest Institute attached their 3D printed tissues to rats. According to them the bio-printed bone tissue on the rats were analyzed after a period of five months and to their surprise new vascularized tissue have developed on the implants with no sign of necrosis.
After various attempts on lab rats followed by other research animals the researchers may well be able to successfully develop these for human!