Nurse, print me two copies of knee cartilage, stat!
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and a printer that spits out connective tissue.
Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University made it.
How? Take an everyday inkjet printer. Modify it so that it prints side to side and back and forth.
Now replace the ink cartridges with cartilage cells and growth medium. Hit print … And, like any ol’ HP, a program tells it precisely where to print and when--using cell solution instead of ink!
But wait! Like ink needs paper, cells need substrates on which to grow. Atala added a gadget that spins a skinlike mat. The system first prints that. Then a cell layer. Another mat. More cells … Hello, multilayered 3D tissue!
He implanted those tissue printouts into mice. By week eight, they looked and worked like real cartilage. The system could even be tweaked to print other tissue types.
Whoa--as if Build-a-Bear wasn’t freaky enough.