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Organs by Inkjet

Inkjet printers can already print living cells.

Inkjet printers can already print living cells.

By Cameron Ferris

The development of a new biological ink takes us one step closer to the goal of printing living cells in three dimensions to create whole organs.

Cameron Ferris is an Associate Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, University of Wollongong (http://www.electromaterials.edu.au).

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Advances in medical devices and our ability to transplant tissues and organs from one patient to another have significantly improved the quality and longevity of life, but these approaches don’t provide all the answers. Artificial devices can be short-lived and don’t function exactly like a living tissue, while organ transplants are complicated by issues with rejection and a critical shortage of donors.

One radical solution is to create replacement body parts on-demand using a patient’s own cells – and the field of tissue engineering aims to do just that. By combining the cells with synthetic or natural biomaterials, tissue engineering creates living substitutes that are intended to look and behave like the real thing.

The prospect of tissue engineering is extremely exciting, yet the science is equally challenging. The human body is complex: multiple cell types, biomaterials and other biomolecules are positioned within a tissue in specific three-dimensional arrangements that are critical to its function.

To enable the fabrication of structures that mimic the complexity of a real tissue, some tissue engineers are turning to a familiar technology – printers. On a daily basis we reproduce text, graphics and highly detailed photos using printers that accurately place inks on paper. In a very similar way, printers can accurately place cells and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.