The University of New South Wales, Sydney, has made groundbreaking progress in the field of bioprinting with the development of a flexible 3D bio-printer (F3DB).
This has the potential to transform the medical industry by enabling the layering of organic material directly onto organs or tissue with minimal invasiveness. It can potentially reduce the need for major surgeries or the removal of organs.
How Does it Work?
F3DB utilizes a robotic arm that operates using a hydraulic system comprised of three soft-fabric-bellow actuators powered by DC-motor-driven syringes that pump water. As reported by IEEE Spectrum, the arm, and flexible printing head can each move in three degrees of freedom (DOFs), comparable to movements made by desktop 3D printers.
To provide real-time visual guidance, F3DB includes a flexible miniature camera that allows the operator to monitor the procedure.
What Does it Do?
With its soft robotic arm, F3DB can effectively assemble biomaterials that contain living cells directly onto damaged organs or tissue. The bio printer’s snake-like, flexible body can be inserted into the body through either the mouth or anus and a pilot or surgeon can control its movements with hand gestures.
Additionally, the printer features jets that can spray water onto the affected area and a printing nozzle that can also function as an electric scalpel. The team behind the F3DB envisions this technology as a multifunctional tool that could eventually be used in minimally invasive surgeries.
How Did it Start?
In their initial lab tests, the research team experimented with non-biomaterials like chocolate and liquid silicone before moving on to a pig’s kidney and printing biomaterials onto a glass surface that mimicked an artificial colon.
According to Thanh Nho Do, co-leader of the team and Senior Lecturer at UNSW’s Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering:
We saw the cells grow every day and increase by four times on day seven, the last day of the experiment. The results show the F3DB has strong potential to be developed into an all-in-one endoscopic tool for endoscopic submucosal dissection procedures.
Although the F3DB represents a remarkable breakthrough in medical technology, the team cautions that it will take another five to seven years before it’s ready for human trials. Nevertheless, this innovation holds tremendous promise for enhancing the precision and effectiveness of medical procedures and could positively impact countless lives.
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