We think its a bit premature to start referring to tissue engineering as “spare parts.” Sure the technology has come a long way and advancing quickly, but its nowhere near the large scale production of human organs that would justify the title “spare parts.” Hey, but thanks for trying Finland.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Tampere University of Technology and Nanofoot Finland Oy have developed a direct-write three-dimensional forming method of biomaterials. The methodology enables fabrication of nano and micrometer scale structures that can be used as parts of tissue engineering scaffolds.
High accuracy biomaterial structures need to be used as tissue engineering scaffolds or cell culture platforms where the fine features have to follow the dimensions of the cultured cells. So far the smallest features achieved in this project have been about 700 nanometers wide. As a reference one can compare it to the epithelial cells, which have a diameter of 11000 – 12000 nm or viruses that range in size between 10 – 100 nm. The fabricated structures can be made of biodegradable materials and thus are biocompatible. The process can also be utilized in manufacturing structures for other applications, e.g. optical waveguides, photonic crystals, and microfluidic channels.
Another advantage of this process is the possibility to utilize an inexpensive, low-power laser. Other research groups have typically used very expensive femtosecond titanium-sapphire pulse lasers. A much cheaper laser that produces longer, picoseconds width pulses has been used in the project. As far as is known there is only one research group in the USA, that has previously succeeded in polymerizing biomaterials with a similar system.
Press Release: Precise and low-cost submicron fabrication technique for manufacturing human spare parts
(hat tip: gizmag)