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UNM researchers build 3D bio-printer

Colton Shone
March 01, 2017 05:27 PM

Three-dimensional printers are already being used to print prosthetics. Researchers have now constructed a game-changing 3D bio-printer, and they're not very far off from printing actual human tissue.

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"Here is a controller so I'm able to tell the printer where to move," said UNM undergraduate student Steven Nery.

Nery showed KOB how this machine works using open-source software to 3D print an image on a computer screen.

"What makes our 3D printer different from standard printer that prints melted plastic, which is what most people are familiar with, our printer actually prints biological materials. Both synthetic and natural materials," said Christina Salas.

The goal is to use stem cells to print bone and ligament tissue that are meant to spur the regeneration of damaged tissue in someone's hand, which researchers say would have a higher success rate than getting tissue from a donor.

"The tissues stretch out over time as a result of aging, as a result of disease for example rheumatoid arthritis. The tissues become incompetent, they just don't hold the joint together anymore," said hand surgeon Dr. Deana Mercer.

Salas' students were able to build this printer with the use of a $30,000 grant.

"The nice thing about building this ourselves is that we can print just about anything we want with this," she said.

Salas said one day 3D printing organs is in the realm of possibility. For now, they're conducting several trial runs with the printer using liquid solutions that can turn into something more pliable. Salas said it'll be a few years until they start testing with humans.

Credits

Colton Shone

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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