3D Printed Organs-on-a-Chip Could Spell End to Animal Testing

3D printing a synthetic heart may pave the way for customized devices.


The number of ridiculously cool 3D printing applications keep piling up, but this latest one pulls at my heartstrings, literally, because I am a big, giant animal lover.

A team of researchers at Harvard University recently announced a way to 3D print a synthetic heart-on-a-chip, also known as a microphysiological system, which could be used in scientific studies in lieu of running experiments on live animals. The study, as explained in an article on Gizmodo.com, chronicles the effort to 3D print an organ that can mimic the structure and function of native tissue while also collecting data about how reliably the heart is beating.

Besides serving as a substitute for animal testing (did I mention how totally fantastic that would be?), this research also paves the way for scientists to design specialized organs-on-chips matched specifically to address certain disease properties or a patient’s own unique cells, the article noted.

Much of the breakthrough came with the team’s work in developing six different printable inks capable of integrating sensors within the tissue being printed as well as a continuous 3D printing process. The integrated sensors are a big deal because they let the research team continuously collect data while the tissues mature and at the same time allow for studies to examine the gradual effects of chronic exposure to toxins.

All hail 3D printing!

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