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3D Printer Builds Artificial Blood Vessels

The goal is to custom-build tissues and organs for transplant, using the patient's own cells and 3D medical printers.
"The printer fits inside a standard biosafety cabinet for sterile use," Invetech said. "It includes two print heads, one for placing human cells, and the other for placing a hydrogel, scaffold, or support matrix. One of the most complex challenges in the development of the printer was being able to repeatedly position the capillary tip, attached to the print head, to within microns. This was essential to ensure that the cells are placed in exactly the right position. Invetech developed a computer controlled, laser-based calibration system to achieve the required repeatability."

Invetech plans to ship multiple 3D bio-printers to Organovo in 2010 and 2011. Organovo will place the printers globally with researchers in centers for excellence for medical research.

Orgonovo was co-founded by Gabor Forgacs, a professor of biophysics at the University of Missouri, who studied chicken embryo development to determine how cells in the embryo move around to form tissues--for example, a wing--from a small number of cells in the beginning. "That study enabled him to get a good handle on how clumps of cells grow into tissues," Murphy said.

Forgacs' research was funded by a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, and the technology is licensed by by Orgonovo from the University of Missouri. The company is angel-funded, and will be seeking venture funding in 2010.