Tokyo Scientists aim to create custom-made skin, bone, and joints using a 3-D printer. While several research groups around the world have been able to develop body parts, the Japanese Scientists are looking to push the technology so that the parts are functional in humans.
Tsuyoshi Takato, a professor at the University of Tokyo Hospital, said his team had been working to create “a next-generation bio 3-D printer,” which would build up thin layers of biomaterials to form custom-made parts. His team combines stem cells, the proto-cells that are able to develop into any body part, and proteins that trigger growth as well as a synthetic substance similar to human collagen. The hope being this combination would create a fully functional custom-made part.
These implants can be created in just a few hours using small amounts of the patients’ own bone or cartilage. They would fit comfortably in place, and can be quickly assimilated into the patient’s body. The technology could also offer hope for children born with bone or cartilage problems, as current synthetic implants must be constantly replaced due to the rate of their body’s growth.
Currently, the technology has one main hurdle – Heat. The heat generated by a conventional 3-D printer damages living cells and protein. Takato’s team has already worked on some models to solve this problem and hopes to resolve this issue soon. If he is able to maintain the cells viability throughout the printing process, we would have a strong breakthrough in the field of biomaterials and 3-D printing – a breakthrough that would enable all sorts of new medical treatment methods.