02/Sep/2014 - Last News Update: 14:06

3D-printed sugar network to help grow artificial liver

Category: Health

Published: 2nd Jul 2012 18:33:09

Researchers have moved a step closer to creating a synthetic liver, after a US team created a template for blood vessels to grow into, using sugar.

Scientists have long been experimenting with the 3D printing of cells and blood vessels, building up tissue structure layer by layer with artificial cells.

But the synthetically engineered cells often die before the tissue is formed.

The technology, in which a 3D printer uses sugar as its building material, could one day be used for transplants.

The study appears in the journal Nature Materials.

Dr Jordan Miller from the lab of the lead scientist, Dr Christopher Chen, at the University of Pennsylvania, told BBC News: "The big challenge in understanding how to grow large artificial tissue is how to keep all the cells alive in these engineered tissues, because when you put a lot of cells together, they end up taking nutrients and oxygen from neighbouring cells and end up suffocating and dying," he said.

Sugar is a very nice material that can be dissolved away in the presence of living tissue very friendly to biological tissue ”

The body's cardiovascular system - blood vessels - solves this issue with natural cells and tissues.

So a group of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) decided to build a synthetic vascular system that would serve the same purpose - by creating a place where the future artificial blood vessels would be located.

Dr Miller's colleague Prof Sangeeta Bhatia, from MIT, said that the technique was similar to creating the shape of a vase in wax, surrounding it with molten metal and then melting the wax away.

But instead of wax, the team used sugar.

"So far, it's been difficult to make organs big enough so that they could provide useful function - and if you implant any tissue thicker than about a millimetre, we can't provide it enough without also engineering blood vessels into the tissue," said Prof Bhatia.

"We created a network of places that we wish vessels to grow into, so they would become piping into the tissue, and we printed those in 3D out of sugar.

"Sugar is a very nice material that can be dissolved away in the presence of living tissue very friendly to biological tissue.

"We then surrounded the network with the cells that we would like to be fed by the blood vessels when the tissue is implanted - and once we have this structure of pipes-to-be and tissue, we dissolve away the sugar using water."

Although the researches did not do any implantation, they said they had wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to build the thicker tissue that could be fed by this network of pipes - and this way, to create a full organ in future.

"We showed that you can use a 3D printer to print an arbitrary network of vessels for any tissue shape or any network of blood vessels, and then surround them with cells that you would like to create the organ out of," said Prof Bhatia.

"We tried to make a liver, so we surrounded them with liver cells, but one could do it with any other tissue."

This group of scientists has correctly identified that the sticking point in all this is going to be vascularity - blood vessels”

Prof Martin Birchall, a surgeon scientist at University College London, said the research answered "a lot of fundamental problems in tissue engineering."

"The idea of 3D printing has been around for several years, and certainly it is possible to print virtually anything," he said.

"You can use biomaterials, cells or a combination these, and this group of scientists has correctly identified that the sticking point in all this is going to be vascularity - blood vessels - making sure that you've got sufficient nutrients going in and waste coming out of something that otherwise is going to be a solid block of stuff.

"And if you're going to build something like a kidney, you're going to need that.

"I'm fascinated by their proposals, they're quite a way from clinic yet, the next step is going to be testing it on animals, but it is certainly very exciting."

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. 3D-printed sugar network to help grow artificial liver [Online] (Updated 2nd Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1438201/3D-printed-sugar-network-to-help-grow-artificial-liver [Accessed 2nd Sep 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Armed thief sought for bookmaker robbery in West Lothian

    An armed thief who held up a bookmaker with a knife in West Lothian is being sought by police.
  • Reece Shearsmith: A man of many faces

    Actor Reece Shearsmith takes the lead role in the new four-part ITV drama Chasing Shadows - set in a missing persons field unit that hunts serial killers who prey on the vulnerable.
  • Scottish independence: Campaign donation figures released

    More than £250,000 was donated in the last month to groups campaigning in the Scottish independence referendum.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Celebrity hacks: How to protect yourself in the cloud

    The release of hundreds of intimate images of celebrities has raised questions about the security of the online services used to share many of the snaps.
  • 'Bullied' teen Joshua Davies told he will not walk again

    A vulnerable teenage boy told he will never walk again after a bridge fall was trying to escape from bullies, say his family.