3-D Printing Inside Human Body to Treat Stomach Ulcers

3-D printing is a modern manufacturing technique and considered as the “second industrial revolution”. It now moved far beyond creating prototypes, toys, and rapid tooling. Medical sciences use this technology to create artificial cardiovascular structures and other patient-specific bio models. One out of the eighth person is affected by stomach ulcers. Medical scientists are now considering to treat stomach ulcers by depositing living cells directly inside the human body using 3-D printing. Modified 3-D printers also called as bioprinters will extrude living cells to produce tissues using additive manufacturing technique. It is reported by United Network for Organ Sharing that 70,000 people are waiting for organ donations in the U.S.A. But one day they have might the option of a bio-printed organ when bioprinters are invented.

Although many living tissues can be printed outside the human body using 3-D printing but it still requires surgical procedures which will lengthen the recovery time and can increase the risk of infection. The issue is that currently, the equipment is normally too large to access the digestive tract and other internal organs. The Chinese Scientists did research to address this issue and they are working to develop a miniature bioprinting robot that could easily enter the human body. Tao Xu is a study’s senior author and bioengineer at University in Beijing said that researchers created cockroach-inspired robots and mechanical bees which will 3-D print bio organs inside the body. This robot is about 30mm wide and can fold to a length of 43mm. Once inside a patient’s body, it unfolds to become 59mm long and can start bioprinting.

In the experimentation phase, the Chinese researchers fitted the microrobot onto an endoscope and successfully sneaked it into a transparent plastic model of stomach through a curved pipe. There they used it to print gels loaded with human stomach lining and muscle cells of stomach onto a lab dish. The bio-printed cells remained viable and proliferated steadily over a period of 10 days. Xu says that “This study is the first attempt to combine micro robots and bioprinting together”. He further added that future microrobots would be sized down to 12mm width and equipped with cameras and other useful sensors to perform more complex operations.

Bio-printed gel on a lab dish

Xu and his colleagues note that the gels they used as bioprinting “ink” were only stable when relatively cool. At normal body human body temperature, they were too liquid to form structures well. Moreover, the calcium chloride solution helps to solidify the gels but it could potentially damage the human body. Recently another gel is developed by Hoelzle and his colleagues address these problems and it can hold its shape at normal human body temperature and can be solidified using visible light. One challenge with bioprinting is how to effectively attach printed cells to existing soft organs and tissues.

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