As much as 3D printed organs have advanced, their creation is still a slow process that can damage tissue. However, there may soon be a faster and more efficient method. Researchers at the University of Buffalo and elsewhere have developed a 3D printing technique 10 to 50 times faster than standard methods. A small synthetic hand (pictured above) that would have taken six hours to print took only 19 minutes – enough to minimize warping and cellular damage from earlier systems.
New approach uses a combination of stereolithography with hydrogels. By precisely guiding the light-curing (curing of the material in the light), the team could quickly and continuously deliver the hydrogel solution needed and maintain “uninterrupted” growth. It is akin to paving a new road for a few moments before driving over it.
The output is currently limited to “centimeter” models, but it is already well suited to printing cells with integrated blood vessel networks. This will be crucial for the eventual production of human-sized organs. If scientists can extend the process to full-sized organs and make it suitable for everyday use, hospitals wouldn’t have to rely so much on organ donors for life-saving transplants.