3D ‘bioprinters’ to knock out new body parts

Saturday, February 26, 2011

LONDON - The range of uses for three-dimensional printers is increasing, and now scientists are eyeing the development of 3D ‘bioprinters’ that will be able to print out skin, cartilage, bone, and other body parts.

Three-dimensional printing is a method for making solid objects with devices not unlike a computer printer, building up line by line, and then vertically layer by layer.

While the approach works with polymers and plastics, the raw ingredients of 3D printing have been recently branching out significantly.

The printers have been co-opted even to make foods, and do-it-yourself biology experiments dubbed “garage biotech” - and has most recently been employed to repair a casting of Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker that was damaged in a botched robbery.

But at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, the buzzword is bioprinting: using the same technique to artfully knock out new body parts.

James Yoo, of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University, told the meeting of his group’s aim to print skin directly onto burn victims.

“What motivated us to start this programme and development is the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” the BBC quoted him as saying.

“Up to 30 percent of all injuries and casualties that occur from the war involve the skin, and using bioprinting we thought that we could address some of the challenges they’re facing with burn care.”

Yoo’s group is developing a portable system that can be brought directly to burn victims.

“What’s unique about this device is that it has a scanner system that can identify the extent and depth of the wound, because every wound is different,” he said.

He added: “That scan gets converted into 3D digital images; that determines how many layers of cells then need to be deposited to restore the normal configuration of the injured tissue.” (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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