Tissues Printed to Order
Mary Parker

Tissues Printed to Order

The future of tissue generation may be 3D printing. Day Two of CRL's World Congress meeting.

Imagine every person on the transplant wait-list getting a new organ in seconds. Imagine if the organs could be created from the patient's own cells, thus minimizing the risk of rejection. Imagine drug trials using artificial human tissue, and you will start to see the possibilities of 3D printing.

One of the last speakers at CRL's World Congress meeting on Sept. 27, Dr. Staochen Chen from the University of California-San Diego shared some of his research on 3D printing of human tissues. This cutting-edge research could be the future of organ transplants, where cells from the patients themselves could be used to manufacture replacements for failing organs or damaged tissue.

The big pictures is regenerative medicine," Dr. Chen said. "It's our goal to build the technology to help restore and repair damaged tissue."

3D tissue printing also has uses in drug discovery. Dr. Chen mentioned funding his lab has received from the US government towards this end, and the potential benefits of printed organs in testing drug delivery methods and in modeling disease. An artificial human liver, for example, could be used to test drug safety without using mice or human subjects. Testing on printed organs first could add another safety measure before beginning clinical trials.

Dr. Chen spent most of his talk describing the flexibility of his lab's printing methods. One issue they discovered was how to vary the stiffness of printed materials to mimic a range of tissues, from soft tissues like fat or brain matter to rigid cartilage.

Their findings indicated that the best method for producing a range of tissues was continuous optical 3D printing, which they demonstrated by printing microscopic fish-shaped robots that could be controlled with magnets. Though their creations were quirky, microrobots like these could also prove useful for targeted drug delivery.

At the end of the talk, Dr. Chen emphasized that as an engineer his research will be guided by need. For now, they are attempting to increase the complexity of their printed tissues, and some day hope to scale up the process to an industrial level.

You can find more stories about our World Congress meeting here.