Written by IEEE | April 20, 2016 | Updated: April 3, 2017
3D printing has continued to grow as an industry, with sophisticated use-cases making headlines. In addition to 3D printing computer parts, trinkets and gadgets, the medical world has also benefitted from the 3D engineering advancements, especially with respect to regenerative medicine.
Tissue engineering has made it possible to 3D print human organs, and scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center were able to use a custom designed 3D printer to create ear, bone and muscle tissues. These organs have been successfully implanted in animals and have matured into functional tissues that work correctly with the existing blood vessels. While it’s still early in the research process, these initial findings prove that 3D printed tissue could ultimately be used in humans for surgical implantation.
This engineering innovation can also minimize the reliance on donated tissue. The Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System was developed to print the needed organs. It uses biodegradable, plastic-like materials to form the tissue and then water-based gels to make the cells. The printing process won’t harm the cells and provides housing for the cells to grow.
The organs printed with this 3D technology can be customized for each patient using MRI and CT scans.
While more tests and studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of 3D-printed organs, this technology is an exciting step into the future of engineered healthcare solutions. Want to learn more? This interactive infographic shows more ways that technology is improving healthcare.