A team of researchers have found a new 3D printing technique that allows them to replicate biological structures which could be used for tissue regeneration and replicate organs.
They claim it is the first research to create structures that are soft enough to mimic the mechanical properties of organs such as the brain and lungs.
"At the moment we have created structures a few centimetres in size, but ideally we'd like to create a replica of a whole organ using this technique," said Zhengchu Tan, one of the researchers from the Imperial College.
The researchers from Imperial College London developed this new technique, published in the journal Scientific Reports, using cryogenics (freezing) and 3D printing techniques.
"Cryogenics is the novel aspect of this technology — it uses the phase change between liquid and solid to trigger polymerisation and create super soft objects that can hold their shape. This means that the technology has a wide variety of possible uses," added Antonio Elia Forte.
This means that these structures could be used in medical procedures to form scaffolds that can act as a template for tissue regeneration, where damaged tissues are encouraged to regrow.
The researchers tested the 3D-printed structures by seeding them with dermal fibroblast cells, which generate connective tissue in the skin and found that there was successful attachment and survival.
This success, alongside previous research, could lead to further possibilities around the successful growth of stem cells, which is medically exciting due to their ability to change into different types of cells.
Additionally, the technique could be used to create replica body parts or even whole organs. These could be incredibly useful to scientists, allowing them to carry out experiments not possible on live subjects.
They could even be used to help with medical training, replacing the need for animal bodies to practice surgery on.