3D Printing of Human Tissue with Capillaries in Real-Time

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Prellis Biologics, human tissue engineering startup developed new technique that enables cells to receive enough oxygen and nutrients while building up complex structures

3D printing of living tissue involves laying down a scaffolding of a biocompatible material such as hydrogel to hold organ cells in place. Staring with a digital file, the printer first lays down the scaffold, then seeds it with stem cells that colonize the scaffolding and organize themselves into proper tissue. However, body cells need a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, which is a major challenge is printing of human tissues and organs. To overcome this challenge, living tissue is vascularized with intricate network of tiny capillaries that carry blood throughout the tissue to feed and oxygenate the cells.

Current 3D bioprinting technology takes weeks to print a cubic centimeter of human tissue. Although the printer includes capillaries in the structure, the tissue is mass of dead cells before it is completed. The Prellis Biologics work toward fully functional organs by using a holographic printing technique with a resolution of 0.5 microns or 10 times smaller than conventional bioprinters and 1,000 times faster. Its optical support system treats hydrogel scaffold in real-time using an infrared laser, which prints block of tissue and its entire vascular system in less than 12 hours.

According to the US government, 20 out of the over 114,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant die each day in the United States, owing to shortage of donors and disease and tissue compatibility. The company claims that it can provide printed organs, which is expected to significantly impact transplants, but it will also help lower medical costs by reducing the demand for oxygen systems, dialysis, insulin injections, and similar treatments. It has applications in the fields of drug development and toxicology screening.

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