Scientists have created a new device called Bio-Pick, Place, and Perfuse (BioP3) that can print microtissues. The technology may also be used to make whole human organs in the future.
A group of scientists led by Jeffrey Morgan, a bioengineer at the Brown University, have developed the BioP3 and suggest that it can make large tissues from living components. Morgan explains that as BioP3 assembles large tissues with the help of small living components, future BioP3 versions can make manufacturing of entire organs like livers, kidneys and pancreases possible.
Morgan suggests that it is a new approach to build tissues and probably organs. 3D bio-printing involves printing one small drop at one time. However, BioP3 is comparatively quicker as it uses "pre-assembled living building parts with functional shapes and a thousand times more cells per part." Morgan added that building an entire organ is a great challenge. However, BioP3 is a step towards that goal.
"We are just at the beginning of understanding what kinds of living parts we can make and how they can be used to design vascular networks within the structures," says Morgan.
Morgan explains that BioP3 can be made using parts that are available at Home Depot. It can cost just about $200 to build a BioP3. It looks like a transparent plastic box that has two chambers: one to store living building parts and the other one where a tissue is made with the help of the living parts. A nozzle is connected to several tubes as well as a stage that resembles that of a microscope, which enables the operator to move it.
In September this year, Morgan received a three-year grant worth $1.4 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which will help Morgan and his team to make improvements to BioP3 including speeding up the process.
The current version of BioP3 is manually operated, which takes a lot of time to build tissues. However, Morgan suggests that future versions of BioP3 will be automated, which will be easier and faster to use. Future BioP3 versions may also work independently and precisely to build tissues and organs.
Many people around the world need organ transplant. However, the biggest challenge surrounding organ transplant is the lack of supply of organs. By the time organ donors are available, it may be too late for a patient. If BioP3 can build an entire organ it may help the lives of thousands of people looking for an organ transplant.
The study has been published in the journal Tissue Engineering Part C.