Scientists have been 3D printing an entire cancer tumor to find out how to fight the disease. Until now, scientists used to grow cancer cells in petri dishes, with the inability to let them become real cancer cells, which means they would stay 2D cells. They were used to test drugs against cancer, but when the drug was ready to be used on an actual cancer cell, there was a high chance that the 3D structure of the actual tumor would make the drug ineffective. A new study called Biofabrication claims it now cán produce such 3D versions of tumor cells.
Wei Sun of Drexel University has succeeded to print such cells, which can be used for the same purposes as 2D homegrown cancer cells, but probably with better outcomes. Using such models, scientist could get a better understanding of the structures of tumors, which could lead to better treatment. Above you can see six images. The upper three are 2D models of a cancer tumor and the three below are 3D versions. As you can see, the 3D printed versions are way more detailed.
3D printing has the ability to one day be playing an enormous role in the world’s search for the cure of cancer, in order to provide more diagnosing information for patients. It might take a while before the technique can really provide for help on a big scale, but this study is one step into the right direction.
Treatment of cancer is not the only field where additive manufacturing – or: bioprinting – can play a role, and researchers in different medical fields are using the technique to improve health in a general kind of way. For instance at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, Dr. Darryl D’Lima is working on a bioprinting technique to print living cartilage into the human body.
Another example: in Louisville, heart surgeon Erle Austin has produced a 3D model of a heart, using X-rays in order to get a better understanding of a young boy’s failing heart. Austin’s team managed to save the boy. Louisville’s university is a leading university in the fight against heart problems, and in this same city scientists are now working on a system to 3D print a heart. The team expects to be able to print and assemble parts of the heart in three to five years, in order to test them in a human in less than 10 years.
Well, what can we say? Exciting times.
Image credits: Drexel University/ Wei Sun.