Researchers achieve 3D printing with human stem cells

Heriot-Watt University

While pop-culture is rife with not-so-tasteful jokes about unwitting organ donors and bathtubs filled with ice, the difficulties associated with finding replacement organs for patients are a very real thing. Nonetheless, if the folks from Heriot-Watt University and Roslin Cellab have their way, we might one day be spared unnecessary complications and be able to use custom-designed 3D-printed entrails instead.

According to the researchers at Heriot-Watt University, 3D printing with tougher cell cultures such as bone marrow and skin is not unheard of, but this is the first time that scientists have replicated this feat with the more delicate embryonic stem cell cultures.

Researcher Dr. Will Shu says that this technique will eventually pave the way towards the creation of "more accurate human tissue models which are essential to in-vitro drug development and toxicity testing."

The team's long-term goal? According to the news release:

"In the longer term, we envisage the technology being further developed to create viable 3D organs for medical implantation from a patient's own cells, eliminating the need for organ donation, immune suppression and the problem of transplant rejection."

If you're wondering why this is of such significance, stem cells are a little bit of biological magic: They can develop into just about any cell in the body, something that be hugely useful in the war against, well, a lot of things that can possibly afflict the human body.

And once we've accomplished that, will fabricants ala Cloud Atlas be next?

[Heriot-Watt University via Business Insider]

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