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3-D Printer Targets Human Tissue Fabrication

3-D Printer Targets Human Tissue Fabrication

A new use of additive manufacturing technology is a machine called a 3-D Bioplotter that can fabricate a wide range of biomaterials.

According to Dr. Vladimir Mironov, director of the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, one of the long-term goals is to print human organs such as kidneys and livers.

The Bioplotter uses a nozzle to print materials within temperatures ranging from -50 to 150C. The materials include calcium phosphate ceramics, degradable polylactic/polyglycolic acid polymers, and hydrogels such as alginate, agarose, fibrin and collagen. 3-D printers, such as the 3-D Bioplotter, are currently used to manufacture biodegradable scaffolds used for custom bone implants. In the future, machines may apply advanced microfluidics to print human stem cells.

3-D Printer Targets Human Tissue Fabrication
The nozzle is driven by numerical control code supplied from a contour file. After transferring 3-D CAD data to a PC provided with the Bioplotter, it is processed by a special software package.

"Tissue spheroids will be used as building blocks," Mironov said in a presentation at Rapid 2010, held in Anaheim, CA May 18-20. He describes tissue spheroids as living materials with certain measurable, evolving and potentially controllable composition, material and biological properties. When they are placed closely together, tissue spheroids undergo fusion. After a structure is printed it would then go into a bioreactor.

In his presentation Mironov described his efforts to engineer small segments of a branched vascular tree by using vascular tissue spheroids. Without vascular systems, the organ wouldn't survive more than five hours," he says.

That's where the 3-D bioprinters play a key role because of their ability to create complex internal designs in minute layers.

The economics for the technology are promising considering that annual dialysis costs $75,000 and many people wait several years before receiving a transplant.

The Bioplotter shown at Rapid 2010 is a fourth generation machine that costs 150,000 Euros ($188,000).

The 3D-Bioplotter, developed by a German company called envisonTEC, operates in sterile environments in a laminar flowbox, which is a requirement of biofabrication. The technology was invented at the Materials Research Center in Germany.
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