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Organ printer

3D printing with embryonic stem cells Scotland,

Drops of liquid in a petri dish.
Small spheres of embryonic stem cells. Courtesy of Heriot-Watt University

A novel 3D printing technique has been used to arrange human embryonic stem cells, the parent cells of the 200 or more cell types in the body, into structures that will allow tissues to be created for toxicity testing, trials of drugs, or to repair a body damaged by sickness or disease.

Researchers led by Dr Will Wenmiao Shu from Heriot-Watt University in collaboration with Roslin Cellab, a stem cell technology company, used a printing technique in which microscopic valves open and shut precisely and gently so they can deposit precise numbers of the cells without damage. 

The cells were loaded into two separate reservoirs in the printer and were then successfully deposited in a pre-programmed, uniformed pattern. Initially, the creation of  3D structures from human embryonic stem cells will allow scientists to create more accurate human tissue models which are essential for in vitro drug development and toxicity-testing, reducing the use of animals.

In the longer term, this new method of printing may also pave the way for incorporating these flexible cells into artificially created organs and tissues ready for transplantation into patients suffering from a variety of diseases.  

Biology, Medicine, Engineering,
Edinburgh, Scotland
Key Individuals
Will Wenmiao Shu, Roslin Cellab, Alan Faulkner-Jones,