Presented by University of Nottingham

Dr Glen Kirkham
School of Pharmacy / University of Nottingham

Professor Kevin Shakesheff
School of Pharmacy / University of Nottingham

Siobhán Dunphy
School of Pharmacy / University of Nottingham

Further reading

Stem cells offer the potential for human tissue repair by being able to generate and replenish damaged tissue. Utilising the method of three-dimensional printing, used in manufacturing, scientists can encourage cells to grow and create tissue formation.

  See the scientists explain the science behind their exhibit in the video above

How it works

Three dimensional printing is a new method used to manufacture complex objects.  It is being used in industries including textiles, building and food industries. Using the ability of stem cells to differentiate into different specialist cells, scientists are able to use 3D manufacturing to ‘print’ with living human cells to start to make human tissues using a printer.

By utilising the most sophisticated manufacturing technologies available, scientist can use optical tweezers and 3D printers to draw with living cells. This method is currently used in bone, brain and cardiovascular tissue repair as well as developmental biology studies. 

The 3D printing uses biodegradable polymers to create ‘scaffolding’ on which the cells grow, giving the tissue structure and shape. The cells then can be moved about into the correct position to grow the tissue. Scientists can also print cells remotely by using an iPad, manoeuvring the cells and sending the information to the printer.

This 3D printing technology opens up the opportunities for creating entire human organs, specifically designed for an individual patient.

Lead Image: Confocal macroscope image of three different cell types grown on electrospun polymer microfibres