Medical science has witnessed a new wave of revolution of sorts. This is owing to technological advancements that have taken center stage in medical studies. 3D prints of organs and tissues are a great way to study the human body and its ailments and also derive solutions. Whether studying the cellular structure of answering pressing needs so far unapproached, 3D printing has allowed a lot more than was possible ever before. Now a new research team has devised a technique that prints tissue scaffolds out of collagen, an important protein in humans, taking 3D printing of organ to a more advanced level.
Called freeform reversible embedding of suspended hydrogels (Fresh), the technique is able to reverse challenged earlier faced during 3D printing of organs, and gives biomedical engineers higher levels of resolution and fidelity for printing soft and living materials.
Collagen is the scaffolding that holds every organ together, a protein—and called the extracellular matrix (ECM). This network of collagen provides the structure and biochemical signals cells need to carry out their normal function. However, until now it has not been possible to rebuild the ECM architecture using traditional fabrication methods, including 3D printing.
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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon adapted 3D printing for bioprinting, “What we’ve shown is that we can print pieces of the heart out of cells and collagen into parts that function such as a heart valve or a small beating ventricle,” says Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical engineering. “By using MRI scans of a human heart, we could accurately reproduce patient-specific anatomical structures and 3D bioprint collagen and human heart cells.”
And it is not limited to, “Collagen is an extremely desirable biomaterial to 3D print with because it makes up literally every single tissue in your body,” says Andrew Hudson, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student and researcher. “What makes it so hard to bioprint with it, however, is that it starts out as a fluid. So, if you try to print this in air it just forms a puddle on the build platform. We’ve developed a technique that prevents it from deforming or dissolving.”