Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claim that they are one step closer to creating a synthetic liver using 3D printing to replicate the human organ and build a network for the blood vessels to grow into, reports MSN.
MIT, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania, have been working to find a way to keep cells alive once the newly engineered tissues have been created. This issue has long been a problem according to Dr. Jordan Miller:
“The big challenge in understanding how to grow large artificial tissue is how to keep all the cells alive in these engineered tissues, because when you put a lot of cells together, they end up taking nutrients and oxygen from neighbouring cells and end up suffocating and dying.”
However, in a recent breakthrough in the research and development of synthetic organs, scientists have discovered a way to use sugar as a building material in 3D printing that would serve as a place for the vessels to grow into.
MIT Professor Sangeeta Bhatia describes the process in further detail:
“So far, it’s been difficult to make organs big enough so that they could provide useful function – and if you implant any tissue thicker than about a millimetre, we can’t provide it enough nutrients without also engineering blood vessels into the tissue,” continuing,
“We created a network of places that we wish vessels to grow into, so they would become piping into the tissue, and we printed those in 3D out of sugar.
“Sugar is a very nice material that can be dissolved away in the presence of living tissue, it’s very friendly to biological tissue.
“We then surrounded the network with the cells that we would like to be fed by the blood vessels when the tissue is implanted – and once we have this structure of pipes-to-be and tissue, we dissolve away the sugar using water.”
According to BBC News, University College London professor Martin Birchall admits that these findings are “quite away from clinic yet,” and that the next steps will include animal testing to give a better idea of what we’re dealing with.
Professor Birchall does say though that the idea of 3D printing human organs “is certainly very exciting.”
What do you think of this new development that has found a place for new cells to grow in synthetic organs?