Of all the applications of 3D printing, the one which seems most astonishing is the possibility of one day being able to use the technology to print out vital biological organs.
But while we re not at that point just yet, a team of researchers at the U.K. s University of Bristol recently announced a significant new advance in the form of a brand new bio-ink, a printable liquid material made out of living cells.
In time it is hoped that this new bio-ink may be used for the 3D printing of cartilage and bone implants for damaged body parts such as joints.
The second natural polymer, extracted from seaweed, then provides the structural fidelity needed to sustain cell nutrients.
If talk of naturally-occurring polymers and phase behavior is a bit much to absorb on a Monday, consider that one of the big challenges with bioprinting is allowing effective nutrient access for the stem cells used in the bio-ink — thereby creating a material which can be used to print a living structure.
The results have already been used to 3D print tissue structures such as a full-size tracheal cartilage ring.