First there were inkjet printers, then 3-D printers for rapid prototyping. Now comes a 3-D printer for creating living tissue. Organovo, a biomedical startup in San Diego, in partnership with Invetech of Melbourne, Australia, has created a 3-D "bio-printer" capable of building human blood vessels, organs, and more.
Based on technology developed by Professor Gabor Forgacs of the University of Missouri, the device fits inside a standard biosafety cabinet. A computerized controller guides the print head as it deposits droplets of living tissue, using a second print head to deposit a hydrogel for support and nutrients. The cells then self-assemble. A blood vessel five centimeters long can be created in about one hour.
Any cell type can be used. The technology could potentially create replacements for lost or damaged skin, bones, cartilage, muscles, corneas, teeth, and more, and might even replace the risky and expensive process of organ transplants.