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Researchers Rig Office Technology to 'Print' Cells

Researchers at Wake Forest University have turned common office technology into a cell-printing machine, reports Scientific American's Jesse Emspak. The team used the concept behind the desktop printer to create a "bioprinter," which distributes cells instead of ink, and could be used to create skin grafts for burns or scar tissue. The printer uses an off-the-shelf print head connected to test tubes loaded with different cell types, Emspak says. The idea is that a laser would be used to scan the wound and create a 3D map, read by the printer. "The print head would lay down the cells layer by layer, directly on the burn," Emspak writes. The project is funded by the Department of Defense, part of an $85 million program to treat battlefield injuries with regenerative medicine, Emspak adds. The system has been tested on mice — those treated with the bioprinter healed in three weeks, compared to five weeks for those that recovered naturally. Emspak says the team has also been able to print bone tissue and a two-chambered mouse heart.

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