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Clusters of stem cells from the 3D printer  (Source: bbc.co.uk)
Technique could help create artificial organs

Scientists may one day be able to address organ donation shortages and the need for immunosuppressant drugs for transplants by creating artificial human organs via 3D printing.

A team of Heriot-Watt University scientists, led by Dr. Will Shu, has successfully used 3D printing to create clusters of embryonic stem cells -- which could, at some point, be used to produce artificial organs.

The team used an adjustable microvalve as a 3D printing technique, where layers of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) were built up to create clusters of cells. HESCs are derived from early stage embryos and are capable of transforming into any tissue in the body.

"We found that the valve-based printing is gentle enough to maintain high stem cell viability, accurate enough to produce spheroids of uniform size, and most importantly, the printed hESCs maintained their pluripotency - the ability to differentiate into any other cell type," said Shu.

The technique will use cloning to create hESCs that have the patient's own genetic programming contained, meaning that the artificial organ from which the hESCs are made will not trigger a negative immune response when transplanted.

Also, this method could produce artificial human tissue for drug testing purposes.

While 3D printing of cells is nothing new, previous techniques with human stem cells have failed due to the sensitivity of these cells.

Source: Heriot-Watt University





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