By Tara Bannow
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The advent of 3D printing has revolutionized the manufacturing industry, but applying the practice to medicine has presented challenges.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports the process commonly involves heating up plastic to semi-molten states. The traditional 3D printers used in the University of Iowa’s Center for
Computer-Aided Design – located on Madison Street across from the Campus Recreation Center – would quickly destroy delicate cells before researchers could attempt to grow them into organs.
“We cannot use this kind of thing,” said Ibrahim Ozbolat, co-director of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology (or AMTecH) group. “It’s not possible because cells are very fragile.”
The newly-formed AMTecH has been using 3D printers, which use computerized models to print solid objects, to create a variety of gadgets. In the biomanufacturing sector, which Ozbolat heads, they use a unique bioprinter designed by a student that’s nimble enough to print cells and grow them into blood vessels.
The bioprinter has multiple arms that work simultaneously, and it looks much different from other 3D printers in that the product it prints is produced in tiny rows of dots along a petri dish. Those dishes are then placed into an incubator, where they hopefully will flourish.
The team’s current goal is a lofty one: to grow an entire human pancreas, the organ that produces the hormone insulin.
The process of growing an entire organ would require building up small tissues. Ozbolat, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, said he thinks his team will be able to grow a pancreas in the lab in three years, and be able to transplant it within three more years.1 2 3 next >>