When you think of 3D, you think movie and video games, but researchers are using 3D printing to customize medical implants and to grow body parts. Researchers are now developing three new breakthroughs that could change medicine in the future.
It looks like a beating heart, but it's actually cardiac cells. Bioengineers are using them to create artificial tissues and organs.
"If you have a failing organ, maybe we can replace a portion of the organ with a tissue construct we grow in the lab," said Mehmet R. Dokmeci, instructor in medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The cells are grown on a hydrogel. By exposing a per-polymer solution to UV light, researchers create a micro-scale, cell loaded building block.
That same team is working on DNA glue that assembles these building blocks to make larger tissues that will someday be used as artificial organs.
"You want to create thicker, larger tissue structures. So by taking these different micro-gel blocks and assembling them together, you can really create thicker bigger tissue structures," Dokmeci said.
The team is also using a 3D printer to create tissue to be used for customized implants.
Layer after layer of biomaterials create implantable tissues. The living 3D structure could someday help replace organs specifically designed for their patients.
The team hopes in the next five to 10 years the research will become a medical reality.