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The first 3D printed organ -- a liver -- is expected in 2014

Lucas Mearian | Jan. 2, 2014
Printed tissue could vastly improve drug testing.

Replacing ears and breasts
Earlier this year, researchers at Princeton University created a functional ear using a modified $1,000 ink-jet printer. They said the ear they created has the potential to hear radio frequencies far beyond the range of normal human capability because the tissue was combined with electronics as it grew in a petri dish.

Princeton University's "bionic ear" was initially printed into a petri dish using a modified ink-jet printer. (Image: Princeton University)

The researchers laid down 3D printed cells and structural nanoparticles to build the ear. A cell culture was used to combine a small coil antenna with cartilage, creating what the scientists called a "bionic ear."

Scott Collins, CTO and vice president of research and development at bio-printing company TeVido BioDevices, said his firm is in the early-stages of using 3D bio-printing of live cells to build custom implants and grafts for breast cancer survivors.

This year alone, about 300,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer and up to 60% of them will choose a lumpectomy. According to TeVido BioDevices, at least 25% of women who undergo lumpectomies are dissatisfied with their physical appearance after the operation.

TeVido is developing an implant from fat and skin cells as well as working to print nipples and the surrounding areola using the patient's own cells. That way, the tissue won't be rejected and will have natural shape and pigmentation.

"Today, we have ways of implanting the breast mound, but as far as rebuilding nipple and areola, it doesn't work well," Collins said. "The pigment is just tattooed on and fades over time."


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