The printing of 3D objects have been thrust into the spotlight over the last couple of years, and then amount of ideas, designs and applications have really been astounding.

The medical use of 3D printers have been fairly muted when compared to commercial use, but South African company RoboHand has been making some rather impressive strides of late.

But across the pond, the University of Sydney has made a huge breakthrough by replicating the blood vessels in human organs.

With the help of Harvard, Stanford and MIT, the collective have bio-printed artificial vascular networks i.e. blood vessels, which is necessary to grow large complex tissue organs.

“Imagine being able to walk into a hospital and have a full organ printed – or bio-printed, as we call it – with all the cells, proteins and blood vessels in the right place, simply by pushing the ‘print’ button in your computer screen,” says study lead author and University of Sydney researcher, Dr Luiz Bertassoni.

Having the ability to bio-print blood vessels is a huge step forward for medical 3D printing, but Bertassoni adds that this is only the first step in a more complex process, but at least progress is being made in the field.

“Our finding is an important new step towards achieving these goals. At the moment, we are pretty much printing ‘prototypes’ that, as we improve, will eventually be used to change the way we treat patients worldwide.”

Just how big of a task lies ahead for the clever folk at the four universities? Bertassoni said the scale and complexity of the bio-engineering challenge they face, you have to consider that every cell in the body is just a hair’s width from a supply of oxygenated blood.

The lack of being able to replicate the complex structure of organs has been a debilitating factor in the past – but not anymore – thanks to the breakthrough in 3D printing.

Being able to print the multitude of interconnected tiny fibres to serve as artificial blood vessels, they also discovered “that the bioprinted vascular networks promoted significantly better cell survival, differentiation and proliferation compared to cells that received no nutrient supply,” according to the University of Sydney.

“While recreating little parts of tissues in the lab is something that we have already been able to do, the possibility of printing three-dimensional tissues with functional blood capillaries in the blink of an eye is a game changer,” Bertassoni concluded.

[Source – University of Sydney, Image – 3Dprint]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.