A new breakthrough in 4D printing could allow hospitals to soon 3D print human organs that can be sued for patients who need transplants. Someday, heart transplants could be as routine as a tonsillectomy.
If this technology pans out as promised, you could also see people turning to these types of transplants to simply replace organs that, while still functioning, are less functional than they once were. You can also see this technology help cancer patients, replacing whole organs that are infested with cancer cells.
A research team with the University of Alberta in Canada has taken this work a step further, and developed a 4D printing technique that could allow them to engineer products with a biological function – one step closer to 3D printed human organs.
The research team, which operates out of the university’s Ingenuity Lab, has successfully 3D printed a resin, made of carbon nanotubes, membrane proteins, and silver nanoparticles, that can split water molecules to generate hydrogen when it’s submerged in water and irradiated with UV light – just like a hydrogen fuel cell.
Anu Stella Mathews, the lead chemical engineer on the project, explained, “When you irradiate the protein inside with UV, it generates a proton, which reacts with the silver nanoparticles to split water and generate hydrogen. The bio-nano ink we designed relies on a combination of materials, stability and geometry that can be controlled inside an engineered space.”
Mathews and her team hope to 3D print objects that are able to mimic complex natural mechanisms, like processes inside the human body or photosynthesis. They recently published a study, titled “Bio nano ink for 4D printing membrane proteins,” in the journal RSC Advances; co-authors include Mathews, Sinoj Abraham, Surjith Kumar Kumaran, Jiaxin Fan, and former Ingenuity Lab director Carlo Montemagno.
“We have expanded the set of tools to enable the incorporation of biological function as an intrinsic property in the devices we print with a new class of light-curable bio-nano ink. We call it 4-D printing,” Mathews said.
“It is the first step towards tissue engineering.”
Read More at 3DPrint.com