Bioprinting of human tissue is a technology that is undergoing development, but it is already paving the way for some really exciting possibilities, including the ability of 3D printing complete human organs. A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University was able to 3D print full-scale heart components that were even able to function like the real thing.
The particular cells that are responsible for creating different organs in the human body are held together using extracellular matrix (ECM). It not just a web of proteins that is keeping everything together but also gives the biochemical signaling that is required for a regular and healthy function of the organ. Collagen is a protein that is pivotal to this structural integrity.
The technique focuses on a specially developed hydrogel. The gel enables collagen to be deposited layer after layer for forming a solid structure within it. The support-gel can then be removed by heating it until it reaches room temperature, thus leaving the 3D printed structure in place.
The team made use of this technique for the construction of a variety of amazing proof-of-concept heart components.