3D printing human tissue

3D printers have become very popular for home and industrial use, but can you imagine them printing human organs? This leap in medical technology may not be far off, thanks to biomedical engineers at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

TRANSCRIPT

3-D printers have become very popular for home and industrial use.

But can you imagine them printing human organs?

This leap in medical technology may not be that far off thanks to biomedical engineers at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Up next, we take you inside the lab.

The 3-D printer is actually a Bioplotter.

So what's unique about this one is that it is capable of printing living cells within the material as you print it.

We've all heard about 3-D printing.

You can probably get them at Home Depot these days.

We're not looking into printing the organs themselves.

We're looking into printing housing or scaffolds for cells to come in and then repopulate and remake the tissue that is lacking in there.

So all of our research is currently focused on coming up with materials that the body will accept easily, that can work as 'inks' to carry the patients' cells into these printed tissues that we would make for the patient.

So, let me paint you a picture.

So, let's say you come in with a automobile accident.

Or let's say our veterans come back with a gunshot wound or a land-mine injury or something like that.

And you're missing a big chunk of muscle and bone.

You kind of go into surgery.

The doctor would clean the wound.

They'd take some of your own fat cells, and most of us are usually very happy donating our fat, especially for a good cause of healing yourself, and take these cells, print them using the inks that we are researching and manufacturing.

And then, the piece of muscle that's printed out with your cells and a Jello-like material would go back into your body.

Because it's your own cells, the risk of rejecting is almost nonexistent.

And your body heals a lot faster because you're providing it with all the raw ingredients to fix the problem.

So within, like, a 4-to-5-hour procedure, you would print out the custom tissue for a patient and put it back into that person.

Take all the science.

Take all the knowledge that we're acquiring here and trying to develop and eventually bring it on to the patient, which will be the ultimate beneficiary of this.

I like using cooking metaphors.

So if you're kind of, like, baking a cake, we're making the batter.

The cells are the chocolate chips.

And you just add them to the batter.

So a lot of our motivation in using this Bioplotter is driven by the local military community in San Antonio.

We work very closely with the U.S. Army and the U.S. Surgical Research.

And if there's, let's say, veterans with gunshot wounds or something like that through the face, and a big piece of their jaw's been blown out, they pretty much have a CT scan.

And from the CT scan, we can reconstruct what their jaw looks like and then print a material to the shape of the jaw.

The patient's own cells would be loaded onto it.

And it would be put back into the body.

Now this would potentially disappear over 2 to 3 years and be replaced by the patient's own native bone.

So you're not stuck with a piece of metal that's holding your jaw together.

And you're kind of... We're using the body to regenerate itself as much as possible.

We're just providing the raw ingredients to make that easier.

Maybe, in the future, you can get to the point where you need to print or create your custom organ for the person who actually needs it using some of the same cells from the person without rejection.