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Ed Yeates ReportingIn what appears like something out of a sci-fi movie, Utah and Missouri researchers are getting ready to print out copies of human organs then re-grow them in the lab.
A clear, odorless gel is like a magical lotion that weaves cells together into a matrix to heal a gaping wound. Now, this creation by medicinal chemist Glenn Prestwich and his colleagues at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy is about to take on another even more amazing role.
Dr. Glenn Prestwich, University of Utah Medicinal Chemistry: "We think we will be able to take that same gel and add blobs of cells to it, clusters of 50 to 100 types of cells, and then those cells will fuse with the hydrogel and form new cardiovascular networks, new urethras, new kidney tubes and tissue networks, and actually be able to build the functional parts of damaged organs."
Hydrogel, as its called, will now become the backbone for "organ printing." You take an image of an actual vessel or the tissue of an organ then print it out - not on ordinary paper, but three dimensional layers of biopaper.
On each sheet, tiny dots containing actual living cells would follow the printed architecture of whatever you want to recreate. The nurtured cells grow and mature and within weeks, assuming their new designs.
Dr. Prestwich: "They have to fuse and start integrating and sorting themselves out into the functional - you know the one kind of cell on one side of the tissue, the other of the other side of the tissue."
The hydrogel is pretty remarkable stuff. It's made up of the body's own recipe so that when it comes in contact with cells, it becomes part of me. It's my own.
Dr. Prestwich: "We're really not trying to fool biology or play God. We're just trying to use what exists in biology to allow the tissues to reorganize themselves."
It's called "self assembly." Now from my own cells, new blood vessels, for example, could be transplanted back into the body, fully functional, ready to go.
The National Science Foundation likes what it sees so much so, it's funding the joint research project to the tune of 5-million dollars.