British scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have created a 3D printing technique that they hope will eventually create artificial organs for transplant.
This new 3D printer technique uses an adjustable “microvalve” to create layers of human embryonic stem cells, or hESCs. Although creating artificial organs is a long way off the team behind the research aim to use this technique to create biopsy-like tissue samples for drug testing.
“We found that the valve-based printing is gentle enough to maintain high stem cell viability”, said Dr Will Shu, from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, “accurate enough to produce spheroids of uniform size, and most importantly, the printed hESCs maintained their pluripotency – the ability to differentiate into any other cell type.”
Embryonic stem cells can be programmed to become any type of tissue in the body and originate from early stage embryos. Cloning techniques can produce these embryonic cells that contain the patients own DNA material. Artificial organs grown from the patients own “cells” will reduce the likelihood that the organ is rejected.
The ultimate aim is to use this stem cell 3D printing technique to create a replacement organ tailored to the patient. But in the mean time research will continue to use this technique to produce more accurate human tissue for drug testing and reduce the need to test on animals.