A German team working on 3D bioprinting of human organs has developed a technique to obtain a “detailed blueprint” of organs to accurately reproduce their structure.
Led by Ali Erturk in Munich, the researchers used a solvent to make the organs transparent. As a result, they could then be scanned to obtain a precise image of their structure and each cell’s location. Using this “blueprint”, the researchers will print a “scaffold” of organs, into which stem cells will be injected to make them functional.
For Erturk, 3D-printed organs have so far lacked detailed cell structures. With his technique “we can see where each cell is located in transparent human organs. And then we can actually replicate exactly the same, using 3D-bioprinting technology to make a real functional organ”.
Over the next two to three years, the team will be focusing its efforts on the pancreas, before developing a kidney in “five or six years’ time”. They will attempt to transplant these bioprinted organs into animals and hope to start in-human trials “within 5 to 10 years”.