Dr. Jordan Miller — reprap/3D printing evangelist, scientist, professor of bioengineering, and organizer of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute (AMRI) at Rice University — shared with us latest research findings in the area of the 3D printing of living tissues, published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS Biology) journal: The Billion Cell Construct: Will Three-Dimensional Printing Get Us There?
Here’s what he had to say:
Great news, our open-access essay on 3D Printing for biology and medicine was published in the journal PLOS Biology. I describe efforts and challenges in the generation of organ-scale living tissues for potential future human therapy. We are especially excited about the contribution of open-source printers such as RepRap to these fields, which are broadly helping to standardize experiments between laboratories.
The article is licensed under Creative Commons and freely available. I hope you will find it a helpful resource to further discussions about applications of these exciting technologies in Science and Medicine.
Jordan sent us a direct link to share a pdf of his article for free with readers. Below is the Abstract and opening paragraph to whet your appetite:
How structure relates to function—across spatial scales, from the single molecule to the whole organism—is a central theme in biology. Bioengineers, however, wrestle with the converse question: will function follow form? That is, we struggle to approximate the architecture of living tissues experimentally, hoping that the structure we create will lead to the function we desire. A new means to explore the relationship between form and function in living tissue has arrived with three-dimensional printing, but the technology is not without limitations.
In the 1960s field known as Bionics, many human tissue functions were considered analogous to basic mechanical and electrical systems, such as servomechanisms . Researchers made rapid progress recapitulating components of systems found in the body, and forecasts were made as to when human–machine interfaces would become so completely integrated with our anatomy as to be essentially undetectable. This conceptual framework has proven useful in practice, with contemporary work applied to human patients through surgical implants such as knee, hip, and limb prostheses ; pacemakers; and cochlear and retinal devices . Although these medical devices significantly improve the quality of life for patients today, there are many functions in living tissues which cannot be addressed with electromechanical systems. Shrewd utilization of our best materials simply cannot replace tissues in the body whose functions are intimately tied to their biochemistry. For example, we don’t know how to make a plastic or a metal that can metabolize acetaminophen and alcohol like the liver can….
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