Of all the surgical procedures possible to be done on human internal organs, it is agreeable that the most complicated work can happen when the heart is involved. This is because the heart tissues do not have the capability to repair it unlike those of the other body organs. So when one unfortunately suffer from a failing heart, they are left with no choice but to wait in the hope that one day, they can be able to receive a donor and undergo a transplant. But thanks to the genius behind our technology, they can now have a better option as Carnegie Mellon University finds a method of 3D bioprinting with soft materials.
In 3D printing, most materials that are being used are self supporting. Just like the titanium-made rib cage and sternum, silicone guides to aid nerve regeneration. There is also a 3D heart model for the heart that is made from flexible plastic. This is used in surgical planning. However, the complications and difficulties come when the case involves replications of soft tissue.
As a solution to this problem, Adam Feinberg who is an associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, together with the Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics Group has researched ways on how they can produce a bioprint of hearts and coronary arteries. They used materials like collagen and fibrin. The technique was named FRESH (Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels) and it involves printing gel inside another gel. The research team used a system of printing the soft materials inside a support bath material. Fundamentally, they printed one gel inside of another gel, which enabled them to accurately position the soft material as it's being printed, layer-by-layer.
The technique starts with an MRI images before making the print design of the heart and artery issues. Then the 3D printer would use a syringe to inject layers of the second gel inside the other gel accurately.
The same as those support filaments that dissolve quickly, the support gel would melt away once immersed in water with body temperature. This will leave the bio-printing cells undamaged. To incorporate heart cells into the printed structures the next step. This work which is currently in progress aims to help form contractile muscle.
And the good news is, the team was able to get a result which comes affordable for consumers. They made 3D printers an open-sourced hardware and software.
Based from the story Support bath enables 3D printing of soft biomaterials by Stanley Goodner