Researchers use 3-D printing in hopes of creating artificial organs

CROMWELL, Conn. (WTNH)– Three-dimensional printing is fast forwarding what researchers are working on and has already led to novel solutions. It builds three-dimensional objects.

“We challenged them to use 3-D printing to create an artificial kidney,” said UConn professor Anson Ma, with the Chemical Engineering Program.

UConn professor Anson Ma challenged his chemical engineering students and they came up an artificial kidney, using a 3-D printer.

“It’s what we call additive manufacturing method,” Professor Ma explained. “So you add things drop by drop and then try to reconstruct in a three-dimensional space.”

Professor Ma says clinical trials are possibly 5 to 10 years away.

“Right now this is a prototype,” said Ma. “The longer term goal is can we incorporate cells, for example stem cells from the patients, then we can create fully compatible organs.”

UConn researchers are also working with different cells to create tissue on non-degradable plastics.

Matthew Harmon is with the UConn Institute for Regenerative Engineering.

“Whether it’s muscle, bone or ligament, these cells have an environment they love to grow in and we’re trying to recreate that,” said Harmon.

Tissue built upon a repetitive process. It is promising research, made possible after teaming up with The ACT Group in Cromwell at the forefront of 3-D printing technology.

Nick Gondek is a 3-D engineer.

“We are pretty much manufacturing each layer and building the part layer by layer, and so it’s a repetitive process,” said Gondek. “Sometimes you could press print and you have a model ready the next day. Others it could take five to six days for very large models.”

They start with a computer model, then click on the icon for build. Nearly four hours later, a model of a patient’s jaw is finished, produced for a doctor trying to determine how to remove the cancerous dark spots.

“The mechanical properties of this material mimics mechanical properties of a human bone,” said Gondek.

ACT is teaming up with UConn on another project, this time using the latest printer, the Bio-plotter. It will actually build the structure while the cells are infused at the same time.

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