If you think creating innovating 3D printing techniques is something for an older generation, then you’re wrong. This week, we got the news that three students from Ohio have successfully created a working 3D bioprinter that can print and grow new bacteria. Jamie Allison, their LHS biotechnology teacher, had tears running down his face when he found out about the new device: “You don’t see this happen every day. I’ve seen something like this happen now once in my career.”
The students – Nathan Bryant, Cameron Spicer and Thomas Worsham – all come from the Loveland City School District. They have been working on this bioprinting project for as many as nine months as part of their LHS biotechnology class. So what did they exactly do?
Well, they used a 3D router system designed to cut wood as a basis for their bioprinter. Thereafter, they put living cells of bacteria in a sugar based gelatin-like material and they then printed out the 3D structure layer-by-layer. Student Worsham explains: “In medicine what you can do is take cells from an organ if a patient needs an organ transplant and then put the patient’s cells into it and actually make an artificial organ. Ours is printing scaffolding that has bacteria in it, where they would have real human live cells and be creating very complex shapes and living structures.”
Their teacher Allison further explains: “Before I realized it, I had tears running down my face. We brought the AP Bio teacher down – she was teary on the spot. I hope I get to see it again, but if I don’t, I know that I was in a school where I had students that were prepared enough by the district, and then I just gave them the push and a few other skills to do something like this. If this is what my career ends like, I’m OK… I’m fine with that.”
Bioprinting is a very trendy research subject for scientists today, and there are many examples to support this assertion. For instance, in the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla in California Dr. Darryl D’Lima is currently working on a prototype bioprinter which is set to print living cartilage into a human body. Cartilage is the tissue which cushions knee joints. If it does not regenerate automatically then a patient will undergo a lot of pain. In case someone would suffer from a knee injury, then doctors could use this technique to efficiently help the person and lower the amount of pain.
Another recent example comes from Missouri company Modern Meadow, which is currently working in a bioprinting technique to print out leather and meat. They take cells from donor animals that are being isolated and modified, after which they are being multiplied in a bioreactor. After a process of centrifugation and aggregation they are being fused together and put into the bioreactor again in order to mature – which takes several weeks. Although the company still has a lot of work to do, they expect to be able to print out leather in about two years.
Recently, heart surgeons at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville have used X-ray scans to get a 3D model of a young boy’s heart, which they printed out in three enlarged pieces. This boy was suffering from heart failure, and using this 3D model the surgeons were able to accurately find out where the non-functioning elements were located in the heart.
Credits image: Loveland Schools.