Building artificial tissue replacements cell by cell has been a subject of science fiction writers for many years. Now Organovo of San Diego, CA partnered with Invetech of Melbourne, Australia to develop printers that can layer three dimensional structures out of various cell types.
The technology works by using a robot to lay down cells in precise positions in three dimensions, accurate to within 20 microns. “It’s similar to the way a laser printer prints by putting solid particles in place,” [Organovo CEO Keith] Murphy, told InformationWeek. The 3D medical printer puts down objects on 2D layers, one on top of the other. The particles used in the construction are made up of stem cells, formed into tiny spheres and cylinders.
The stem cells are available for research purposes from companies including Life Technologies and Invitrogen. When the device is used for treatment, cells will come from the patient, such as bone marrow, or fatty adipose tissues, where stem cells can be harvested. “Because they come from the patient, there’s no risk of having a rejection,” Murphy said. These are adult stem cells, not the fetal stem cells that have been politically controversial.
Researchers take a cross-section picture of the object they want to build, such as an artery. “We use that as a map to paint by numbers,” he said.
Objects take about an hour to build, and then the cells fuse together on their own in the course of 24-48 hours, locking the object in shape.
From the press release:
The printer, developed by Invetech, fits inside a standard biosafety cabinet for sterile use. It includes two print heads, one for placing human cells, and the other for placing a hydrogel, scaffold, or support matrix. One of the most complex challenges in the development of the printer was being able to repeatedly position the capillary tip, attached to the print head, to within microns. This was essential to ensure that the cells are placed in exactly the right position. Invetech developed a computer controlled, laser-based calibration system to achieve the required repeatability.
Invetech plan to ship a number of 3D bio-printers to Organovo during 2010 and 2011 as a part of the instrument development program. Organovo will be placing the printers globally with researchers in centers of excellence for medical research.
Read on at InformationWeek…
Organovo press release: Organovo Receives Delivery of First Commercial 3D Bioprinters…