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Did you know that the placenta, connecting a baby to its mother, is an organ? Anna-Elizabeth Kreuder reminds us of this in a recent Ted Talk, while also explaining that she has always had a fascination with how drugs affect and help the human body, as well as causing adverse reactions. She is also a proponent of moving from a 2D world to a 3D one, and along with her research team has turned to the manufacturing of an innovative new 3D printer; actually, it is a bioprinter meant to help further healthcare for pregnant women as the scientists build cells for ongoing study.

“What I do every day is I 3D print the human placenta,” explains Kreuder, a PhD student in Germany at Berlin Technical University.

Liquid cell glue is chelated with exposure to light, and the scientists are able to create specific bioprinted disks encapsulating the material. The disks are tiny, and Kreuder likens them to ‘little gummy bears.’ Although they are substantially smaller than a real placenta, the disks work in exactly the same way—and have the same properties as they are bioprinted from real placenta cells. The team has also gone beyond 3D and to the next level with 4D, experimenting with the form of the disk as they needed it to morph into different shapes.

“After the 3D printing process, I needed to make sure that the cells, that they feel as if they were in our body,” says Kreuder. “I put them in a nutritious medium, in a liquid, in a component like human blood, and I keep it at body temperature—37 degrees. And then, over time, I see something amazing. I see that the cells, they grow and divide, and they interact with their environment. They actually remodel it. That means they are building their own environment.”

We have followed numerous stories regarding the fourth dimension with printing, but normally it applies to textiles or items meant for consumer comfort as a fabricated item is able to transform itself as needed. This could be a fashion item such as a dress or a shoe or even a seat for a luxury car. As it pertains to 4D printing here, the placenta cells are basically just being allowed to do what they do best—build a biological structure:

“I see that the cells they grow and divide, and they interact with their environment, and they actually remodel it. That means that they are building their own environment and that is the most natural form you can have because the cells know best…”

This allows the scientists to do further research examining issues such as nutrition or ingestion of different drugs during pregnancy. The 3D printed placenta can translate to other applications as well, not to mention other fabrication of ‘mini-organs.’ Krueder closes her speech by recommending to the audience, however, that they take care of their organs “because we cannot print them just yet.”

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source/Images: Bioprinting the Human Placenta]

 

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