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3D printing could be used to print human tissue

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

An important development has been made in the field of ‘bioprinting’ which could have a major impact on medical research, and even the ability to produce tailor-made tissue.

Bioprinting refers to having actual cells embedded in a 3D-printed framework, with a new high-resolution process having just been discovered.

As highlighted by Science Daily, researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) have engineered a high-resolution bioprinting process using a special ‘bio ink’ with cells able to be embedded in a 3D framework printed with micrometer precision.

What’s more, this method is far faster than previous bioprinting efforts, with a print speed of 1m per second.

Embedding cells in such a 3D framework is a very useful way of investigating the behavior of cells, and aspects like tissue growth, or studying diseases – and a bioprinted structure is a great way to do this.

Need for speed

The researchers at TU Wien based their high-resolution advance on “two-photon polymerization methods”, a process well-suited to producing very fine 3D structures with high precision.

The drawback is that traditionally this high-resolution printing is extremely slow, perhaps only managing to print a few millimeters per second, and the problem then is the survival of the cells.

There’s only a good chance of the cells actually surviving if the printing process can be completed within a few hours, so boosting print speeds from millimeters to a whole meter per second is obviously a giant leap forward.

Professor Aleksandr Ovsianikov, head of the 3D Printing and Biofabrication research group at the Institute of Materials Science and Technology (TU Wien), commented: “Using these 3D scaffolds, it is possible to investigate the behavior of cells with previously unattainable accuracy. It is possible to study the spread of diseases, and if stem cells are used, it is even possible to produce tailor-made tissue in this way.”

So obviously the implications are far-reaching indeed for medical research and beyond…

We also recently saw how a 3D printer could help train the surgeons who operate on you in the future.