It may sound like something from a futuristic Hollywood sci-fi flick but the fact is, reseachers working on a new study from the University of Edinburgh have actually developed a printer for embryonic human stem cells. The cell printer is “capable of printing uniform-size droplets of cells gently enough to keep the cells alive and maintain their ability to develop into different cell types,” reports Yahoo. The technology could be used to grow organs, create 3D human tissues for testing new drugs and eventually to “print cells directly in the body”.
This is such amazing news. When it comes to modern day science it seems the sky is the limit. Things are being achieved that people dared not to even dream of just a few years ago.
According to Live Science, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), which are obtained from human embryos, can “develop into any kind of cell type in an adult person” which means they are ideal for “regenerative medicine Â— repairing, replacing and regenerating damaged cells, tissues or organs”.
A process called differentiation places the cells in a dish with solution that causes the cells to develop into a specific kind of tissue. The “embryoid bodies” which are formed at the beginning of this process can be produced in a defined shape and size by the cell printer. In this study the printer was made from a modified computer-controlled machining tool, which was outfitted with two “bio ink” dispensers. One dispenser contained “stem cells in a nutrient-rich soup called cell medium and another containing just the medium”. It was discovered that 95% of the cells were still alive 24 hours after being printed, leading researchers to believe that they had not been killed by the printing process.
Although a along term goal is to build whole organs, that “may be quite far from where we are today,” says biomedical engineer Utkan Demirci, of Harvard University Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
It will be interesting to see the various ways in which this development may benefit mankind. With some people still confused by how regular 3D printers work, the idea of using them to make human cells is too much for the average person to wrap their head around. Thank goodness of scientists.