Jordan Miller—a professor at Rice University who is using of 3-D printing to create blood vessels—brought a printer to Capitol Hill last week to demonstrate the potential of the technology. He was hosted by Rep. Mark Takano (D, CA) and the consumer-advocacy group Public Knowledge, according to National Journal, which quoted Takano as saying of the printer, “That's kind of amazing that it could actually print the cells and create maybe certain types of tissues. That's fascinating.”
Laura Ryan and Reena Flores in National Journal write, “Lawmakers are starting to take notice of the technology, and a small group of congressmen wants to ensure that laws are made that help the machines fulfill their promise rather than get in their way.”
They also note that Miller's work on printed blood vessels complements work done by scientists worldwide who are using the printers to create organs such as hearts or livers.
Such work includes a bioprinting method developed at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The method “creates intricately patterned, three-dimensional tissue constructs with multiple types of cells and tiny blood vessels,” according to Dan Ferber of the Wyss Institute, writing in February. The work, he wrote, “represents a major step toward a longstanding goal of tissue engineers: creating human tissue constructs realistic enough to test drug safety and effectiveness.”
He quoted Jennifer A. Lewis, the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard SEAS and a Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute, as saying. “This is the foundational step toward creating 3D living tissue.” She and her team reported the results of a study on the method February 18 in the journal Advanced Materials.
In related work, researchers at the University of Louisville have employed a 3-D printer to make working parts of a human heart, using fat cells and collagen.
Dr. Stuart Williams, the chief of the Bioficial Heart program at the University of Louisville's Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, told Lyndsey Gilpin at TechRepublic last month, “We are utilizing printing and other biological manufacturing techniques to build these different parts of the heart.”
Interestingly enough, Gilpin noted that according to Williams, the heart is a relatively easy organ to print—being “a bag of muscles and blood vessels and an electrical system” but lacking the specific nerves and joints of a hand, for example.