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Wake Forest Researchers Successfully Implant Living, Functional 3D Printed Human Tissue Into Animals

by • February 15, 2016 • No Comments

bioThe news has been full of stories of new advancements in 3D printed tissue. Companies such as Organovo and research institutions such as the University of California San Diego are significant the charge in the createment of 3D printed, functional human tissue, particularly liver tissue. So far, printed tissue is being utilized mostly for pharmaceutical drug testing, but at any timeyone in the 3D printing biosphere professes the ultimate goal of some day making whole, fully functional human organs that can be transplanted into patients. Most experts agree that it can happen; it’s only a matter of when.

It is in addition a matter of who. The race to be the initially to 3D print a transplantable human organ is an intense one, and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center may have only pulled into the lead. Regenerative medicine researchers at the North Carolina hospital have revealed that they have printed ear, bone and muscle structures and that successfully implanted them into animals. The structures, after being implanted, matured into functional tissue and sprouted new processs of blood vessels, and their durablity and dimensions mean that they may feasibly be implanted into humans in the next.


Dr. Anthony Atala

“We manufacture ears the dimensions of baby ears. We manufacture jawbones the dimensions of human jawbones,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM). “We are printing all kinds of things.”

Dr. Atala has long been a significant player in the field of regenerative medicine. In 2006 his lab created history by expanding and implanting a bladder into a human patient – the initially time such a feat had at any time been established. He and his team have been createing the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP) over the past decade. The process involves a custom-designed 3D printing device that utilzes a water-based ink optimized to promote the health and growth of encapsulated cells, that are printed in alternating layers with biodegradable plastic micro-channels that act as passages for nutrients. Unlike other bioprinting methods, ITOP prints the cells and the scaffolds simultaneously, according to Dr. Atala.


“This novel tissue and organ printing device is an significant advance in our quest to manufacture replacement tissue for patients,” he said. “It can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue of any shape. With additional createment, this innovation may potentially be utilized to print living tissue and organ structures for surgical implantation.”

printedearWake Forest’s research has been largely funded by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a military organization working to create regenerative treatments for sat any timeely injured soldiers. The createment of transplantable, 3D printed tissue may obviously benefit both military personnel and civilians, yet – according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, over 121,000 Americans are already on the waiting list for an organ transplant. The ITOP process may eliminate waiting lists altogether with “created to order” organs custom-designed for individual patients based on MRI and CT scans.

We’re yet years away of that, but it’s been five months since 3D printed bone fragments were implanted into rats, and the tissue is yet thriving within the rodents’ bodies. One of the largest challenges in bioprinting so far has been getting printed tissue to survive long adequate to form blood vessels and nerves and otherwise fully integrate with the body in that it is implanted, so this study is amazingly promising. You can access the study here. Discuss these new makes it to in the 3D Printed Tissue forum over at 3DPB.com.