We May Be Able to Print Brains Soon

With the latest developments from University of Wollongong’s researchers we might soon be able to 3D-print living human tissue and maybe even entire organs.

brains

The medical field is one of the industry branches benefitting the most from technological advances in 3D printing. Just a few weeks ago, Australian researchers from the University of Wollongong have made yet another breakthrough in 3D-printing organic structures.

3D Printing Stem Cells Is Already Possible

When talking about medical science, today stem cell research dominates conversations. And rightly so. Stem cells are able to generate other cells which is the base idea of a living organism. To put it in a nut shell, stem cells can regenerate tissue and nerves where there are none. Advancing in this field may help finding cures for many chronic and even deadly diseases.

What a team of researchers at the University of Wollongong’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) did in this field is said to be a huge step in the right direction. Using a 3D printer and a specifically designed bio-ink, the team led by Associate Professor Jeremy Crook was able to create tissue that resembles the one found in human brains.

The human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) which the bio-ink partly consists of has the same power as embryonic stem cells. These can turn into any body cell, creating body tissue and possibly even entire organs to replace damaged ones.

Schizophrenia and Parkinson’s May Be Treatable

With this new technique patients will now be able to receive stem cells which are customized to their individual body’s needs thus reducing the chance of immune rejection. Since scientists are already working on pre-clinical safety studies to soon make the regenerative patient-based treatment method of Professor Crook’s team accessible.

It will mostly be used to treat neuro-psychological diseases. Crook says that non-working serotonin and GABA-producing nerve cells are correlating with schizophrenia and epilepsy patients while defective dopamine-producing cells probably are responsible for Parkinson’s disease.

Using 3D printing, the team was able to create neurons which produce GABA and serotonin.

“We might want to make a tissue that specifically generates that neurotransmitter for grafting into the brain of a Parkinson’s patient,“

says Dr Crook.

“That’s absolutely achievable.“

A Small Step for a Scientist but a Giant Leap for Science

Although the results of the research is an amazing first step in the direction of 3D-printing entire organs, the creation of a whole working brain is a far too complex task to achieve any time soon. They are working towards that goal nevertheless, Dr Crook says. Besides creating patient-specific transplants, the 3D-printed tissue might serve for research purposes as well. By creating tissue from stem cells of patients suffering from one of the previously mentioned diseases, those diseases may be researched better in the future.

If you are looking for further information in great detail, University of Wollongong’s researcher published their study “3D Bioprinting Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Constructs for In Situ Cell Proliferation and Successive Multilineage Differentiation“ in the Advanced Healthcare Materials Journal and there is also a video available on ABC News.

Since 3D printing is becoming an increasingly large part in the printing industry, we are always looking to welcome entrepreneurs and scientists from this field at drupa. That of course includes Dr Jeremy Crook from the University of Wollongong. We hope to see you at drupa 2020!

Do you think 3D printing is put to a good use in medical research? Which development in this field would you consider the biggest breakthrough so far? Tell us in the comments!