Scientists Produce Stem Cells Using 3-D Printer

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File photo of a researcher examining stem cells through a microscope. (Photo by SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a researcher examining cells through a microscope. (Credit: SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CBSDC) — According to Research America in Alexandria, Va., most voters in the United States were in favor of expanding funding for stem cell research when asked about their stance on the controversial topic just before the 2012 election.

The organization, working with JZ Analytics, polled likely voters in August of last year, and determined that 27 percent of all voters strongly favored the idea. A reported 34 percent were at least somewhat in favor of it.

That cumulative 61 percent of voters would also likely be in favor of a new technology being developed in Scotland, which essentially uses stem cells to “print” new organs that can be used in transplants to save lives.

A report in Time magazine stated that, with the use of a 3-D printer, researchers can use stem cells as “bio-ink” to create a genuine replica of a given organ. The technique allows for human embryonic stem cells to pass through a printer without destroying the genetic materials.

The process is reportedly referred to formally as biofabrication, and the findings of this study were recently published in a journal bearing the same name.

“In recent years, the use of a simple inkjet technology for cell printing has triggered tremendous interest and established the field of biofabrication,” study authors noted in the paper. “A key challenge has been the development of printing processes which are both controllable and less harmful, in order to preserve cell and tissue viability and functions.”

Researchers, including co-author Will Shu of the Heriot-Watt Univeristy in Edinburgh, announced Monday that, while printing actual organs is still a future prospect, the ability to have stem cells survive the printing process is a big step along the way.

They are additionally encouraged by the results of their experiments thus far.

“This work demonstrates that the valve-based printing process is gentle enough to maintain stem cell viability, accurate enough to produce spheroids of uniform size, and that printed cells maintain their pluripotency,” the paper notes. “This study includes the first analysis of the response of human embryonic stem cells to the printing process using this valve-based printing setup.”

Time magazine learned that scientists have already developed the technology to “print” sensitive materials such as human DNA, as well as models of human faces.

Other objects, including smartphone cases and jewelry, have also reportedly been generated using 3-D printing techniques.

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