Skin, bone and joints could now be created using a a next-generation bio 3D printer, which can build up thin layers of bio-materials to form custom-made parts, according to scientists at the University of Tokyo Hospital. Within hours the printer is able to craft an implant using data from a Computer Tomography (CT) scan. These implants fit into place in the body, and quickly become assimilated by real tissue and other organs in the patient.
Prof. Tsuyoshi Takato said that his team combines stem cells, the protocells that are able to develop into any body part, and proteins that trigger growth, as well as synthetic substance similar to human collagen. Takato said, "Using a 3D printer, we are working on mimicking the structure of organs, such as the hard surface and spongy inside for bones."
The plastic surgeon said, "We usually take cartilage or bone from the patient's own body (for regular implants), but these custom-made implants will mean not having to remove source material." The artificial protein the research team uses was developed by Fujifilm. Since it is modeled on human collagen and does not derive from animals, it can be easily assimilated in human bodies, reducing the risk of infections such as mad-cow disease.
The research team aims to start clinical tests of 3D-printed skin in three years and then proceed to bones, cartilages and joints. The new technology could also offer hope for children born with bone or cartilage problems, for whom regular synthetic implants are no good because of the rate of their body's growth.