Bioprinter at UVa Designed to Print Human Tissue

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- A special bioprinter is now being used at the University of Virginia. It may eventually be used reconstruct the body.

The machine has been at UVa since May, and students are working with the bioprinter to eventually design organs that can be used to reconstruct the human body.

Stem cells will be used in the printer.

"We are using a cell that we can take out of the body,” said Shayn Pierce-Cottler, associate professor of biomedical engineering. “And these are usually tissues that are normally discarded like liposuction."

Peirce-Cottler is overseeing the bioprinter, and wants to use it to help people.

"The current shortage of organs for organ transplantation in this country; obviously there’s this attractive possibility to be able to print personalized organs for patients that need transplants," said Peirce-Cottler.

She says this may be more of a 20-year goal than a five-year one, but the students are learning how to use the bioprinter quickly.

"The students already know how to use it better than I do, and they're already starting to adapt it for new and interesting goals that we haven't even envisioned," said Peirce-Cottler.

Korey Marshall has been working with the bioprinter since it arrived at UVa, and he just finished his Masters at Carnegie Melon. He is starting medical school in the fall.

"There are many different ways of 3-D printing,” said Marshall. “Three-D printing is a very broad description of what we're doing."

In order to print, the material goes in a syringe that is then pressurized. This pressure pushes out the material onto a canvas, layer after layer. The material they are practicing with is an over-the-counter hand cream.

The team will eventually work up to using material like collagen to be used for reconstructing the human body. The machine can print a piece of tissue the size of a postal stamp in about three minutes.

Out of the four bioprinters in the United States, two of them are located at UVa.

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