It sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie, but bio-medical engineering students at the University of Minnesota are learning to make everything from ears, noses and blood vessels using a 3-D printer and biological material.
“Bio-printing is 3D printing,” Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, with the Division of Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation at the University of Minnesota, said. You are printing in layers, one on top of the other, but instead of using plastics you are using biological materials as well as cells…so you are printing a living tissue.”
Bio-printing is still in experimental stages, but someday soon it could be used for organ transplants, tissue engineering and reconstructive surgery.
U of M students are training for when that day arrives. In the lab they create models of noses, ears and blood vessels using gel-like substance that can contain proteins like collagen and stem cells.
Grad student Abby Van Dusen is in the lab because she is interested in a career in pharmaceuticals.
“I’m interested in drug delivery,” she said. “Eventually you could test the drugs on actual human cells using this application.”
“This will really revolutionize medicine,” Panoskaltsis-Mortari said. “Some people say it will change it the way the internet changed communication.”
This semester is the first time bio-printing has been offered at the U of M and it’s the only class of its kind in the country right now.