Tissue engineers have already used 3D printers to create thin layers of human tissue. To make complex tissues or organs, however, 'bio-printers' must replicate the intricate vascular networks that deliver nutrients and remove waste. Now, researchers can do just that. They’ve designed a machine that can precisely print materials on top of one another in intricate patterns (as seen here) and developed 'bio-inks' containing human cells and/or structural proteins that form scaffolds for those cells. Most importantly, the scientists also produced special type of bio-ink that melts when chilled, allowing them to print an interconnected pattern and then suck out the liquid to leave a network of hollow tubes. By seeding those tubes with blood-vessel-lining cells, the researchers made a tissue construct with the beginnings of working blood vessels – the sort of tissue construct that could be used to test the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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