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Bioprinting Human Organs Using BioP3 Technology

Organ transplant patients now have a new hope of receiving an organ through a new technology that can manufacture and print whole organs. The new technology is still in the prototype phase, but the developers of BioP3 have just received a grant from the National Science Foundation that will take them one step closer to printing organs. 

The BioP3 technology was developed by Jeffrey Morgan, a Brown University bioengineer, and Dr. Andrew Blakely, a surgeon at Rhode Island Hospital, and the Warren Alpert Medical School. The P in BioP3 represents the “pick, place, and perfuse” technology. The 3D printer can adapt the “pick and place” principle used in assembling electronics. The technology picks the components and then lays them into place to form the whole unit. 

However, the BioP3 doesn’t use electronic components, but instead uses living parts or micro tissues that contain millions of living cells. The new technology can pick up complex, multi-cellular building parts and transport these parts to the building area. The printer will precisely place the parts in the correct location and start fusing them together using a constant stream of fluid that gives the parts nutrients and removes the waste.

Morgan explained that this new technology is exciting because of the new approach they are using to build tissues or organs, layer by layer from complex living parts. The BioP3 approach is different from the 3D bioprinting that was believed to be the answer to printing human organs. The bioprinting technology uses cell-seeded material that prints the organ one drop at a time by depositing successive layers on top of each other. Morgan’s BioP3 approach uses pre-assembled living body parts that have functional shapes and more cells per part.

Morgan’s BioP3 uses micromolding to form the micro tissues by seeding the cells into micro-molds. This allows various types of cells to self-assemble into spheres, donut rings, honeycomb, and rods. With this new technique, it will be possible to 3D print and build bigger tissue that are constructed by combining multiple living micro tissue components. 

The small, clear plastic box of the BioP3 stores the micro tissues in a central chamber. A nozzle connects to the various tubes and the microscope that is used to pick up the cells one at a time through suction. The microscope operator moves each cell component to where it needs to be placed in the building area, which gradually builds the 3D biological structure. During the process the micro tissues are enclosed in the liquid and the nozzles creates the fluid suction. Therefore, the nozzle is used to pick up, carry, and releases the micro tissues without damaging them. During the process, the micro tissues bond together and create a single structure.

Morgan said that this is the beginning stage of the project and they are just beginning to understand what type of living parts they will be able to construct. They will use the living parts to design vascular networks within the cell structures. Morgan is very excited about the new technology and building an organ. He understands that this is a major challenge for biomedical engineering. He believes this is a positive step forward and in the right direction.

Image: Complements of Brown University

Ann Johnston

About Ann Johnston

Ann enjoys writing, reading, gardening, fishing and the great outdoors. Her job has allowed her to travel and live in different countries. She enjoys studying and learning about different cultures.

Ann Johnston

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