Advances in 3D Printing Technology Are a Promising Development to Manufacturing Organs for Those in Need of Transplants

A team of researchers has developed a technique for 3-D printing of living tissues, including a lung-like sac about the size of a penny. Rice University screen capture from YouTube.

Advances in 3-D printing technology have brought scientists a step closer to manufacturing organs for people in need of transplants.

Evangelical bioethicists say the technology appears “promising” and “exciting,” provided it does not involve embryo-destructive techniques among other potential pitfalls.

Research published May 2 in the journal Science reported 3-D printing of living tissue using human cells and a water-based solution, according to media reports. Scientists have been working for years on such technology, but for the first time, they have achieved the ability to print vascular networks similar to a human body’s natural passageways for blood, air and other vital substances.

“One of the biggest road blocks to generating functional tissue replacements has been our inability to print the complex vasculature that can supply nutrients to densely populated tissues,” said Rice University bioengineer Jordan Miller, one of the lead researchers. “… Ours is the first bioprinting technology that addresses the challenge” in a “direct and comprehensive way.”

A tiny air sac mimicking a human lung was among the tissues reportedly printed by the team of 15 scientists from multiple institutions, according to media reports. Researchers also reported printing liver tissue that was implanted successfully into mice.

Miller said the technology — known as the “stereolithography apparatus for tissue engineering” (SLATE) — also can produce valves like those found in human hearts and legs, Science Daily reported.

Evangelical bioethicist C. Ben Mitchell called the advancement of SLATE “an exciting development, indeed.”

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Source: Baptist Press