New 3D printer will print sugar scaffolds for growing living organs

The collaboration between Bioengineering Professor Rohit Bhargava and Dr. Matthew Gelber could revolutionize medicine. They managed to construct a 3D printer, in which the working substance is isomalt, replace the sugar obtained from beets. Three-dimensional sugar structures will become the basis for the replication of various tissues and organs, including the most complex in structure.

In the modern methodology of treating cancer, it is important to be able to purposefully grow a tumor in advance on tissue samples from a patient in order to select an individual treatment. But in a flat Petri dish it is not possible to recreate a volumetric fragment of the liver or the structure of the intestine, and the function of the organ also depends on the shape. We need full-fledged three-dimensional copies of living flesh, with identical systems of blood vessels, nerve bundles, different layers of tissues, etc.

Sugar dissolves easily, and when heated, it caramelizes, becomes strong and therefore suitable for replacing plastic in a 3D printer. At the same time, isomalt (the base of throat lozenges) dissolves easily and without a trace and is absorbed by living cells. But not instantly - the printer developed by Bhargava and Gelbert creates a reliable and durable frame on which you can have time to grow living tissues and even copies of entire organs.

The merit of this team lies in the development of methods for detailed control of sugar printing at all stages, so their 3D printer can print even a skeleton for a network of the finest capillaries without the risk of damaging their structure. In the next step, the scientists want to add sugar dissolution control mechanisms to take control of their models to the next level. Then it will already be possible to speak of an attempt to print an organ that can be “launched” and made to work separately from the body.