Scientists Successfully 3D ‘Bioprint’ Human Bone, Cartilage, and Muscle

In yet another breakthrough using 3D printing, medical researchers in North Carolina, U.S., have successfully produced muscle, cartilage, and bone templates that can be implanted into animals. The researchers, from Wake Forest School of Medicine, have developed a process that they’ve termed the “the integrated tissue and organ printing (ITOP) system.”

Overcoming the massive challenge of producing human-scale tissues using 3-D printing was anything but easy for the researchers as printing human-scale tissues calls for the use of additional nutrition. According to a key member of the team, Dr. Anthony Atala, his team used ITOP to produce an intricate network comprising tiny channel that will enable nutrition to be evenly provided across the ear once it has been implanted into a live animal. For the purpose of this experiment, the researchers produced muscle, bone, and cartilage – these were transplanted into mice and rats.

About five months after the ear was implanted, the bone tissue began to look like normal bone, said the researchers. During this period, the bone tissue had no dead areas and featured well-developed blood vessels, the team report in the journal, Nature Biotechnology.

The presence of viable cells in the ear’s inner regions was indication of the fact that the cells were well-nourished, the team further said. According to the researchers, human-sized ear implants, when viewed under a microscope, look similar to normal cartilage – with blood being circulated in the outer regions but not the inner regions.

That’s not it. The 3D printed skeletal muscles looked very similar to normal muscle just two weeks after the implantation had been done. The response of these implants was impressive too as the muscles contracted just like developing muscle when they received stimulation.

What’s exciting is that the researchers are in the process of using a similar strategy to 3D print solid organs.


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