Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have made a huge leap forward in developing 3D-printed biological body parts.
By leveraging open source software and hardware, the team took a low cost 3D printer and modified it begin reproducing human organ structure. Because they have used open source material, they are able to avoid private cost and dropped the price from over $100,000 to under $1,000.
So, what exactly are they doing? Adam Feinberg, associate professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering, along with his team, have begun to print human hearts inside of a suspension gel.
“3-D printing of various materials has been a common trend in tissue engineering in the last decade, but until now, no one had developed a method for assembling common tissue engineering gels like collagen or fibrin,” said TJ Hinton, a graduate student and lead author of the study.
The team injects the materials into the gel. Once the material is stable, the liquid is heated up to 99 degrees Farenheiht and the gel is melted away, leaving the remaining tissue as a functioning organ or vessel. This material is then treated as scaffolding and can be injected with stem cells, including those of a human heart.
Scientists are extremely excited about the low cost and breakthrough potential of custom building hearts for people with heart deficiencies. Also, by using open source technology, they are able to rapidly improve the quality and precision of the work.