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Scientists 3D print human stem cells

The likelihood that students in high school, and especially in grade school, will have some interaction with 3D printers in their future professions is ever increasing. With recent developments, it’s obvious that 3D printers will prove essential in not only engineering and manufacturing fields, but also many areas of science and even healthcare.

Gizmodo recently reported that scientists have 3D printed embryonic stem cells. The cells produced by a team at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland are responsible for using this process that could be used in the future to produce kidneys, hearts and various other organs.

This amazing feat was accomplished by loading stem cells into a 3D printer in place of ink. By using a valve, the 3D printer pushed out living cells into drops that were formed into uniform sizes.

It’s a significant discovery because human embryonic stem cells can create any type of tissue. That means these cells could one day be used in many types of organ transplants and could even be in essence “planted” within the body to help damaged organs regenerate.

The machine

Keep in mind that this wasn’t a traditional 3D printer without modification. Fox News reported that the printer was developed at the University of Edinburgh. In fact, the cell printer was actually made from a modified CNC machine (computer-controlled machining tool), a machine commonly used in manufacturing. It was outfitted with two “bio-ink” dispensers with one containing stem cells and the other containing a nutrient-rich solution.

The results

After the cells were printed, tests revealed that more than 95 percent of the cells were alive 24 hours after being printed, which suggests that they weren’t killed when printed. Three days later, 89 percent of the cells were still alive and tested positive for their ability to develop into different cell types.

Utkan Demirci, a biomedical engineer at Harvard University told Fox News, “This technology could be really good for high-throughput drug testing.” He said that the eventual goal would be creating whole organs but that it might be far from where we are today.

Here at Dream It! Do It! Nebraska we’ve brought you news about 3D printed guitars, 3D printed car parts and 3D printed planes, but the implications of 3D printed tissue could have a greater impact on human life than any of these other advancements. Any student interested in research, medicine, engineering or manufacturing should become familiar with this technology, as it’s not likely to be a passing fad.

photo credit: Horia Varlan via photopin cc

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