Inkjet printers can print human cells

Jan 19, 2005

Made-to-measure skin and bones, which could be used to treat burn victims or patients who have suffered severe disfigurements, may soon be a reality using inkjets which can print human cells.
Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed the breakthrough technology which will allow tailor-made tissues and bones to be grown, simply by inputting their dimensions into a computer.

Professor Brian Derby, Head of the Ink-Jet Printing of Human Cells Project research team, said: "It is difficult for a surgeon to reconstruct any complex disfiguring of the face using CT scans, but with this technology we are able to build a fragment which will fit exactly. We can place cells in any designed position in order to grow tissue or bone."

This breakthrough overcomes problems currently faced by scientists who are unable to grow large tissues and have limited control over the shape or size the tissue will grow to. It also allows more than one type of cell to be printed at once, which opens up the possibility of being able to create bone grafts.

“Using conventional methods, you are only able to grow tissues which are a few millimetres thick, which is fine for growing artificial skin, but if you wanted to grow cartilage, for instance, it would be impossible,” Professor Derby says.

The key to the advance which Professor Derby and his team have made is the innovative way in which they are able to pre-determine the size and shape of the tissue or bone grown.

Using the printers, they are able create 3-dimensional structures, known as ‘tissue scaffolds’. The shape of the scaffold determines the shape of the tissue as it grows. The structures are created by printing very thin layers of a material repeatedly on top of each other until the structure is built. Each layer is just 10 microns thick (1,000 layers equals 1cm in thickness).

This method allows larger tissues to be grown than previously possible. The reason for this is the way in which the cells are inserted into the structures.

Before being fed into the printer, the cells are suspended in a nutrient rich liquid not dissimilar to ink, which ensures their survival. The cells are then fed into the printer and seeded directly into the structure as it is built. This avoids any ‘sticking to the surface’ which is a major disadvantage of current methods that infuse the cells into the structure after it has been built.

“The problem is getting cells into the interior of these constructions as they naturally stick to the sides of whatever they are being inserted into. If they stick to the sides then this limits the number of cells which can grow into tissues, and the lack of penetration also limits their size. By using inkjet printing we are able to seed the cells into the construction as we build it, which means ‘sticking’ isn’t a problem,” says Professor Derby.

Professor Derby believes the potential for this technology is huge: “You could print the scaffolding to create an organ in a day,” he says.

Source: The University of Manchester

Explore further: Archeologists worry planned tunnel could ruin chance to understand history before Stonehenge

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Discovery in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Dec 18, 2014

For four years, researchers at Universite catholique de Louvain have been trying to find out how bacteria can withstand antibiotics, so as to be able to attack them more effectively. These researchers now understand how one ...

Stem cells born out of indecision

Dec 18, 2014

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into embryonic stem cells and how blocking their ability to make choices explains why they stay as stem cells in culture. The results have just been published ...

Unraveling the light of fireflies

Dec 17, 2014

How do fireflies produce those mesmerizing light flashes? Using cutting-edge imaging techniques, scientists from Switzerland and Taiwan have unraveled the firefly's intricate light-producing system for the ...

Detecting defects in solar cells

Dec 02, 2014

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have developed a new method for detecting defects in solar cells using a technique called 'compressed sensing'.

What makes Toxoplasma gondii so unpredictable?

Dec 01, 2014

Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasite often spread by cats. Most people who are infected in Europe or North America show no symptoms at all, and only a few suffer from encephalitis or ocular toxoplasmosis, ...

Recommended for you

Strong neighborhood ties can help reduce gun violence

1 hour ago

The bonds that tie a neighborhood together can help shield community members from gun violence, according to new findings by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical ...

Industrial clusters fuel economies, according to study

2 hours ago

Experts have long theorized that having a cluster of firms within a given industry helps a region's economy grow. Now a study co-authored by an MIT professor shows empirically that clusters of almost all ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.