New 3D Printing Technique Takes Only ‘Seconds’ To Produce Functional Organs

Organ production may soon be as easy as a single click. Researchers developed a new method that enabled them to print artificial organs and tissues in less than one minute. 

Scientists hope the printing technique, called volumetric bioprinting, may soon enable hospitals to create new and fresh organs to repair or replace damaged ones in patients. It may also speed up development of new drugs.  

Previous 3D printing techniques failed to produce functional organs because of the lack of capability to make free-form shapes and maintain high cell viability. Using volumetric bioprinting, researchers were able to address the issue. 

The team from the Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices (LAPD) in Switzerland said using the laser printer allowed them to create complex tissue shapes in a biocompatible hydrogel with stem cells. The organ can also be modified to include blood vessels. 

Another notable progress is that the printing process, despite producing complex organs, only takes a few seconds to complete. Volumetric bioprinting may enable cellular engineers to create a new personalized, functional bioprinted organs in the future, the researchers said in a paper published in Advanced Materials

"Unlike conventional bioprinting - a slow, layer-by-layer process - our technique is fast and offers greater design freedom without jeopardizing the cells' viability," Damien Loterie, study co-author and a researcher from LAPD, said in a statement

The printing technique maintains the quality of stem cells during the process. The researchers produced tissues similar to a heart valve, a meniscus and a complex-shaped part of the femur. The printed tissues and organs were also used to build interlocking structures. 

LAPD researcher Paul Delrot said volumetric bioprinting would enable laboratories to mass-produce artificial tissues or organs. The technique may also reduce the need for animals in experiments, which has been widely criticized over the past years. 

The researchers aim to commercialize the new volumetric bioprinting. 

"This is just the beginning,” Christophe Moser, head of the LAPD, said. “We believe that our method is inherently scalable towards mass fabrication and could be used to produce a wide range of cellular tissue models, not to mention medical devices and personalized implants." 

EPFL Printer This is the hollow mouse pulmonary artery model produced using the EPFL researchers new volumetric bioprinting technique. Alain Herzog/2019 EPFL