In the past year or so 3D printers have printed everything from chocolate to handcuff keys to meat but scientists have stepped it up a little by 3D printing embryonic stem cells, possibly paving the way for 3D printed organs that can be used for transplants.
A team working at Heriot-Watt University, which is based in Scotland, have developed a 3D printing method that allows them to work with delicate embryonic stem cells. Previously conventional stem cells have been 3D printed but embryonic stem cells have been a tougher nut to crack.
Dr Will Shu, a member of the team working on the medical technology, said “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that these cells have been 3D printed. The technique will allow us to create more accurate human tissue models which are essential to in vitro drug development and toxicity-testing.”
“In the longer term, we envisage the technology being further developed to create viable 3D organs for medical implantation from a patient’s own cells, eliminating the need for organ donation, immune suppression and the problem of transplant rejection.”
Business development manager of Roslin Cellab, Heriot-Watt’s partner in this venture, Jason King said “This is a scientific development which we hope and believe will have immensely valuable long-term implications for reliable, animal-free drug-testing and, in the longer term to provide organs for transplant on demand, without the need for donation and without the problems of immune suppression and potential organ rejection.”