Researchers Hack 3D Printers to Produce an Amazing Result

At Carnegie Mellon, a team of medical researchers has found a way to hack 3D printers using open source software in order to print models of human organs such as hearts, arteries, brains, and bones out of biological materials. Although the biological models printed thus far cannot be used in transplant operations, but that is the next step. Working from 3D images of various organs, the scientists were able to print models of various organs using biological materials

An astounding article on the Science Daily website gets into the details:

“3-D printing of various materials has been a common trend in tissue engineering in the last decade, but until now, no one had developed a method for assembling common tissue engineering gels like collagen or fibrin,” said TJ Hinton, a graduate student in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon and lead author of the study.

“The challenge with soft materials — think about something like Jello that we eat — is that they collapse under their own weight when 3-D printed in air,” explained Feinberg. “So we developed a method of printing these soft materials inside a support bath material. Essentially, we print one gel inside of another gel, which allows us to accurately position the soft material as it’s being printed, layer-by-layer.”

One of the major advances of this technique, termed FRESH, or “Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels,” is that the support gel can be easily melted away and removed by heating to body temperature, which does not damage the delicate biological molecules or living cells that were bioprinted. As a next step, the group is working towards incorporating real heart cells into these 3-D printed tissue structures, providing a scaffold to help form contractile muscle.

The article explains that 3-D bioprinters have existed for a while, but they are typically very expensive, e.g. $100,000 or more. The team found that they could hack software for consumer-level printers and be ready to bioprint for less than $1000, making this new method very affordable.  For additional info, check out the excellent article on the Science Daily website.


Source: – “Researchers hack off-the-shelf 3-D printer towards rebuilding the heart

Featured Photo Credit: Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering