Welcome to the future: This 3D printer uses living cells to print human tissue

biobots 3d printer living tissue
We’ve all read stories about amputees and disabled people getting 3D printed prosthetic limbs, but what if you could 3D print real body parts made from living tissue, not just plastic replacements? Sounds crazy, right? Well as far-fetched and outlandish as it sounds, this is precisely what Philadelphia-based startup BioBots is doing.

To be fair, the company definitely isn’t the first to take a stab at this idea. Researchers have been exploring biofabrication (the process of building living tissue structures) for well over a decade at this point — but BioBots founders Danny Cabrera and Ricardo Solorzano believe they’ve figured out a better way to do it.

“Our idea was we can use the same approaches that were used in the maker movement to build smaller and cheaper devices in biotech,” Cabrera said in an interview with TechCrunch. “When we looked at what was out there, we found devices that existed were huge — they looked like old mainframe computers, they took up entire rooms, they cost half a million dollars and were really difficult to operate. You needed technicians to operate them.”

3d printed earInstead of using the large, outdated, and ridiculously expensive machinery that biofabrication researchers currently employ, these guys have developed a small, low-cost 3D printer that can do the job faster and more effectively. Biobots’ 3D printer uses a specially engineered ink that can be combined with living cells to build living, three-dimensional tissue structures.

The key to this process (and what differentiates the BioBots printer from other biofab machines) is the printer’s ink. It contains a special “photoinitiator powder” that cures and solidifies when hit with a certain wavelength of blue light, making it possible to build biomaterial structures without using pressure or UV light, as many existing biofabrication devices do. According to Cabrera, this method is more effective for printing living tissue because excessive pressure and UV light can both harm cells, but blue light doesn’t.

In order to print a living tissue structure, a user simply combines BioBots’ photoinitiator powder with whatever living cells they’d like to print, along with binding factors that help the cells stick together. This mixture is then placed inside the machine, which uses hydraulic pressure to push it through the extruder. Designs can be loaded onto the printer just like any other 3D printer, so users can create structure designs with the same CAD or 3D modeling software they already use.

The technology isn’t quite ready for primetime just yet, but BioBots has already produced a number of prototypes, and has been working closely with medical researchers across the country to get feedback and make improvements. The founders are currently looking to secure funding for further development.

Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Smart Home

Smart light switches have become more affordable: Here are the best ones

The ability to control the lighting in your home can have a big effect on your living space. To have more control over your lighting, check out the best smart light switches on the market. 
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for March 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for March 2019.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Tesla Model Y, The Missing Link, and good digital hygiene

Episode 89 of Digital Trends Live covered topics including Tesla's newest crossover, as well as an interview with What's Trending co-founder Shira Lazar. We also talked about Laika Studios' latest stop-motion animated film, Missing Link.
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Emerging Tech

Chilean telescope uncovers one of the oldest star clusters in the galaxy

An ultra-high definition image captured by the Gemini South telescope in Chile has uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way. The cluster, called HP 1, could give clues to how our galaxy was formed billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover giant chimneys spewing energy from the center of the galaxy

Astronomers have discovered two exhaust channels which are funneling matter and energy away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy and out towards the edges of the galaxy, dubbed galactic center chimneys.
Emerging Tech

A milestone in the history of particle physics: Why does matter exist?

If matter and antimatter were both produced in equal amounts by the Big Bang, why is there so much matter around us and so little antimatter? A new experiment from CERN may hold the answer to this decades-long puzzle.
Emerging Tech

Dublin Airport has a novel idea for tackling rogue drones

There are a growing number of technology-based solutions for dealing with rogue drones flying near airports, but officials at Dublin Airport have come up with another idea for keeping the skies safe.
Emerging Tech

This sleek new exoskeleton makes walking easier, fits under your clothes

A new ankle exoskeleton that is designed to be worn under clothes can help people to walk without fatiguing — and without restricting natural motion or drawing attention to itself.