After the first heart has already been “printed” using bioprinting, Brazilian researchers can now report another breakthrough. With the help of human blood cells, they have succeeded in printing a functional mini-liver that can take over all the functions of the organ, such as the production of vital proteins, the storage of vitamins or the elimination of bile. The study, conducted at the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center (HUG-CELL), produced a functional liver within only 90 days.
The entire process, from the patient’s blood collection to functional tissue production, can be divided into three phases: differentiation, pressure and maturation.
Even though the mini-liver already fulfils the functions of a liver, the researchers are still far from a true large liver. Further stages still need to be reached, but the organ produced using 3D printing is the first proof that the production of organs using bio-printing is possible. The organs produced in this way are also very compatible with the patient, as they are created on the basis of his or her cells.
However, the truly innovative aspect of the 3D printing process, as the study points out, was the integration of the cells into the bio-colour used for printing. Instead of printing each cell individually, the scientists found a method of grouping them before printing. It is these cell groupings that make up the tissue and make functionality possible.
Although it will still take some time before organs come out of the 3D-Durcker, the technique used here can be used in the future to produce complete transplantable organs, according to the researchers.
Post picture: Daniel Antonio/Agência FAPESP