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Scientists Invent 3D-Print Living Body Parts

Update Date: Feb 17, 2016 08:10 AM EST

A recent breakthrough in regenerative medicine has led scientists to create the world's first functional human body parts using 3D-printing biotechnology.

Researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem in North Carolina have successfully developed fully functioning ear, bone, and muscle parts using a novel technology which scientists named as Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing (ITOP) system.

"Let's say a patient presented with an injury to their jaw bone and there's a segment missing. We'd bring the patient in, do the imaging and then we would take the imaging data and transfer it through our software to drive the printer to create a piece of jawbone that would fit precisely in the patient," said lead researcher Prof. Anthony Atala as quoted by BBC News.

The new technology combines living cells with water-based gel and then fed with nutrients to encourage the cells to grow naturally.

"We present an integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP) that can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue constructs of any shape. The correct shape of a tissue construct is obtained from a human body by processing computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data in computer-aided design software," the researchers officially wrote in a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology as quoted by NBC News.

Despite the recent hype fueled by his team's breakthrough, Atala cautioned that ITOP may not exactly work for highly complex organs like liver and kidney with today's technology.

"In this study we printed a wide range of tissue strengths - from muscles as a soft tissue to cartilage and bone as a hard tissue showing a whole range of tissue strengths is possible," Atala said as quoted by Medical News Today.

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