Printable organs

Scientists are developing methods to print artificial organs using bioinks. University of Missouri biophysicist Gabor Forgacs reported on his advances at last week's Experimental Biology conference. From New Scientist:

Other tissue engineers have tried printing 3D structures, using modified ink-jet printers which spray cells suspended in liquid. Now Forgacs and a company called Sciperio have developed a device with printing heads that extrude clumps of cells mechanically so that they emerge one by one from a micropipette. This results in a higher density of cells in the final printed structure, meaning that an authentic tissue structure can be created faster.

Cells seem to survive the printing process well. When layers of chicken heart cells were printed they quickly begin behaving as they would in a real organ. "After 19 hours or so, the whole structure starts to beat in a synchronous manner," says Forgacs.