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Scientists Use Soft, Living Materials to Create 3D Print Heart Scaffold

The technique called FRESH can print pieces of the heart out of collagen and cells into truly functional parts like a heart valve or a small beating ventricle, according to the study

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3D print heart
The technique called FRESH can print pieces of the heart out of collagen and cells into truly functional parts like a heart valve or a small beating ventricle, according to the study. Wikimedia Commons

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University used soft and living materials to create a biological scaffold, making a step closer to being able to 3D print a full-sized, adult human heart. The study published on Thursday in the journal Science reported the first-of-its-kind technique that could print tissue scaffolds out of a major structural protein in the human body, the Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Human organs like the heart are built from specialised cells that are held together by a scaffold called the extracellular matrix (ECM). It has not been possible until now to rebuild the complex ECM using traditional methods.

The technique called FRESH can print pieces of the heart out of collagen and cells into truly functional parts like a heart valve or a small beating ventricle, according to the study. The collagen is a desirable 3D-printing biomaterial since it makes up literally every single tissue in human body. But it starts out as a fluid and tends to deform during printing.

3D print heart
First-of-its-kind technique that could print tissue scaffolds out of a major structural protein in the human body. Pixabay

The FRESH technique allows collagen to be deposited layer-by-layer within a support bath of gel, so that the collagen could solidify in place before being removed from the gel. Then, the support gel would be melted away by heating from room temperature to body temperature without damaging the printed structure.

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The FRESH is a robust and adaptable tissue engineering platform since a wide range of other soft gels including fibrin, alginate, and hyaluronic acid can be used. Also, the researchers managed to accurately reproduce patient-specific anatomical structure.

Looking forward, it has potential applications in many aspects of regenerative medicine, from wound repair to organ bioengineering, according to the researchers. (IANS)

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NASA to Send Organ-on-Chips To Test Human Tissue Health in Space

Called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties

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NASA, tissue
US shutdown delays space missions but NASA not grounded: Report,

NASA is planning to send small devices containing human cells in a 3D matrix — known as tissue chips or organs-on-chips — to the International Space Station (ISS) to test how they respond to stress, drugs and genetic changes.

Made of flexible plastic, tissue chips have ports and channels to provide nutrients and oxygen to the cells inside them.

The “Tissue Chips in Space” initiative seeks to better understand the role of microgravity on human health and disease and to translate that understanding to improved human health on Earth, NASA said.

“Spaceflight causes many significant changes in the human body,” said Liz Warren, Associate Program Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) in the US.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler Space Telescope. As of October 2018, the planet-hunting spacecraft has been in space for nearly a decade. VOA

“We expect tissue chips in space to behave much like an astronaut’s body, experiencing the same kind of rapid change,” Warren said.

The US space agency is planning the investigations in collaboration with CASIS and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

Many of the changes in the human body caused by microgravity resemble the onset and progression of diseases associated with ageing on Earth, such as bone and muscle loss. But the space-related changes occur much faster.

That means scientists may be able to use tissue chips in space to model changes that might take months or years to happen on Earth.

Parkinson's Disease, Kepler, NASA, tissue
A researcher takes a tissue sample from a human brain at the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank, VOA

This first phase of Tissue Chips in Space includes five investigations. An investigation of immune system ageing is planned for launch on the SpaceX CRS-16 flight, scheduled for this year.

The other four, scheduled to launch on SpaceX CRS-17 or subsequent flights, include lung host defense, the blood-brain barrier, musculoskeletal disease and kidney function.

In addition, four more projects are scheduled for launch in summer 2020, including two on engineered heart tissue to understand cardiovascular health, one on muscle wasting and another on gut inflammation.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
“Detecting life in an agnostic fashion means not using characteristics particular to Earth life,” said Heather Graham at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Pixabay

Also called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties, according to Lucie Low, scientific programme manager at National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in the US.

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“It has to be 3D, because humans are 3D,” she explained.

“It must have multiple, different types of cells, because an organ is made up of all kinds of tissue types. And it must have microfluidic channels, because every single tissue in your body has vasculature to bring in blood and nutrients and to take away detritus,” she added. (IANS)