March 24 - For the first time scientists have printed human embryonic stem cells using a 3D printer. The Heriot-Watt University team's research could eventually lead to human organs being printed on demand and an end to animal drug testing. Jim Drury reports.
NOTE TO EDITORS: THE LIQUID SEEN BEING PRINTED IN THIS VIDEO DOES NOT CONTAIN STEM CELLS, BUT WAS WATER, PRINTED FOR DEMONSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY. THE STILL IMAGES ALL SHOW PRINTED CELLS MADE BY THE SCIENTISTS A human embryonic stem cell printed on a home-made 3D printer. Using stem cells as a form of 'ink', the Heriot-Watt University team, led by Dr Will Shu, think they'll soon be able to print human tissue. Bioengineer Alan Faulkner-Jones built the printer which uses a valve-based technique to deposit whole, live cells onto a surface. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALAN FAULKNER-JONES, BIOENGINEER AT HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "What we have here is our brand new, in-house built cell printer which I built from scratch using parts from an old 3D printer and some brand new bits that we got from other suppliers." The team printed tiny droplets of bio-ink, each containing up to five cells from an embryonic human kidney and an embryonic cell line. Squeezed out of a thin valve, 99 percent of cells tested were alive and viable for replication. SOUNDBITE (English) DR. WILL SHU, HEAD OF HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY STEM CELL PROJECT, SAYING: "It's accurate enough to produce 3D micro tissue of uniform sizes, and most importantly the printed cells can still maintain their pluripotency, which is their ability to differentiate into any other cell types in our body." That differentiation occurs when the stem cells are combined with nascent cells from specific organs such as the liver or lungs which emit chemical signals to transform the stem cells into liver or lung tissue. Shu's team want to produce human liver tissue by 2015 and build individual organs with their stem cell printer soon afterwards..heralding a new era in science and medicine.