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3D Printers Promote Healing Tissues and Bones

September 25, 2014
3D Medical Printing

Researchers at the University of Toronto have built the PrintAlive Bioprinter which prints skin grafts derived from a host patient’s own skin cells.  These cells, used as the material “ink” needed to produce the build, are deposited into strips that contain fewer cells than are typical in the “full continuous sheets” commonly used.  The benefits of this approach are two-fold:  it is faster than using cultured skin cells which take two weeks or more to grow enough to be grafted.  And when skin damage runs deeper than the epidermis, this technique’s bioprint pattern allows multiple layers to be applied and still survive.

The team includes Masters students Arianna Mcallister and Lian Lend, PhD student Boyang Zhang and University of Toronto Associate Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Axel Guenther. To date, their research has been confined to mice, but the researchers reportthe technology has worked to heal “severe wounds” and they expect human trials may be possible in two to three years.

Further south, a research team at the University of Massachusetts Medical school, led by Dr. Jie Song, is using a MakerBot Replicator to print a latticed scaffold implant it hopes will someday promote healing in damaged bones and tissues.  Unlike the traditional filaments used in FDM printers, this 3D printer is fed a combination of “plastic and the therapeutic stem cells or proteins that a patient needs to heal, and the flexible scaffold that emerges could become a kind of patch for use by surgeons.”  The lab is also investigating a similar approach to “regenerate the periosteum, a tissue that covers bone.”

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