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IU Researchers Work On 3D-Printing Organs


From left to right: Lester Smith, PhD, Burcin Ekser, MD, PhD and Ping Li, PhD (Eric Schoch, IUSM)

An Indiana University research team hopes to use 3D printing to replicate organs.

The IU School of Medicine recently entered into a $9 million agreement with Lung Biotechnology PBC, a Maryland-based company focused on organ transplantation technologies.

IU researchers plan to invest the money in generating tissues and purchasing supplies to analyze the results, in order to better understand tissue behaviors and how to replicate tissue structures.

Dr. Lester Smith is an assistant professor of radiology and imaging sciences at IU School of Medicine. He says it is very important to have the resources to investigate how tissues are formed and to be able to, not just generate the tissues but also perform the analysis afterwards.

Now Smith and his colleagues generate tissues. But the team is working to generate organs that can be used to replace damaged tissues.

“Then if someone has a skin burn, maybe we can replace skin. Or if someone has a bad liver then we can replace the liver entirely. But this is way down the road.”

Due to the complexity of human tissues, trying to replicate that is very difficult.

“Most of our tissues which make up our organs have a lot of different cell types. They are also vascularized, which means they have a lot of blood vessels that are basically channeling through them,” Smith says.

He says it’s unclear when doing so will become a reality.

“When we get there that’s when I can tell you how long it took. That’s because the body is so complex and there’re so many different parts and so many responses. I couldn’t tell you how long it would take but we’re on the road to that destination.”

IU School of Medicine houses a state of the art 3D bio printer. It’s one of only two academic sites in the country with the technology.



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