Gone are the days when 3D printers can only print plastic trinkets. Scientists say that if the 3D printer to load the structure with embryonic stem cells, doctors have been able to print micro-organs for transplant patients.
The Embryonic stem cells obtained from human embryos can develop in any part of the body such as brain tissue, heart cells or bones. This property makes them ideal for use in regenerative medicine — the repair and replacement of damaged cells, tissues and organs.
Usually scientists are experimenting with embryonic stem cells by dispensing them into biological signals that direct them towards developing specific types of tissues — a process called differentiation. This process starts with the cells forming spherical masses called “fetal organs” — activity that mimics the early stages of embryonic development.
Previous studies have shown that it would be better to grow embryonic stem cells are not laboratory glassware, but in a 3D environment, simulating that the cell can develop in human bodies. Recently, scientists have developed 3D printers for embryonic stem cells. The 3D printer works by depositing layers of material, like regular printers, except that they could also print the flat layers on top of each other, the W creating 3D objects.
“We can apply the method of 3D printing and the W to make the most fetal organs by controlling the image print very similar blocks from embryonic stem cells,” says study co-author Wei Sun, Professor of mechanical engineering in Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of Drexel in Philadelphia.
“In principle, these blocks can be used like LEGO bricks to build tissues and potentially even micro bodies” added Wei Sun.
In experiments, the researchers simultaneously printed mouse embryonic stem cells with the hydrogel, the same kind of material from which manufactures contact lenses. Because embryonic stem cells are relatively fragile, the researchers took care to protect the cells as much as possible — for example, to find them the most comfortable temperature.
The size and homogeneity of embryonic organs can significantly affect the cell type. According to scientists, their new technology allowed more efficient control over the embryo.
“Mature embryos are uniform and homogeneous body, and serve a much better starting point for further growth of tissues,” said Wei Sun.
“Our next step is to learn more about how we can vary the size of the embryo, by modifying the print structural parameters, and how to change the size of the embryo to ‘manufacture’ different types of cells,” said Rui Yao associate Professor, Beijing Tsinghua University.
In the long run, researchers would like to print various types of embryonic organs. “This will contribute to the development of various types of cells, which will lead to the cultivation of micro-organs “zero in the laboratory“, Rui Yao, the statement reads.