…”The livers we’ve built so far look a lot like a soft contact lens. We call them our contact lens livers, and they contain about a million liver cells. Your liver actually has about a hundred billion liver cells, so they need to be about a thousand times bigger.” said Sangeeta Bhatia.
Bhatia’s team has been experimenting with building layers with light-sensitive materials. The light shine a pattern in every layer and end up with a 3D part. The specific technique depends on the tissue, and liver is very special because of its ability to regenerate without a stem cell.
“It’s one of the only organs in the human body that can do this.” Bhatia explained. “Since the 8th century B.C., we knew the liver could regenerate and it doesn’t need a stem cell, and in fact, if we cut 50 percent of the liver out, it’ll be back in two weeks.”
The biggest challenge is to scale up, to print a liver that contains a billion or 10 billion liver cells. The 3D printed tiny human liver that behaves like human liver can be implanted in mice. And the test results showed that the 3D printed tissue produced some of the same interactions and injuries that are usually only seen in humans. Bhatia hopes that they would take the technology to human someday.
But another important area is actually building little tiny organs that you could do drug screening on, Bhatia said. San Diego medical research company Organovo is also working on creating slices of functioning, long-lasting human liver for drug testing, and they now expects to unveil the world’s first printed organ – a human liver – by the end of 2014….
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! We also offer the LulzBot TAZ – Open source 3D Printer and the Printrbot Simple Metal 3D Printer in our store. If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!