A new form of 3D-printing that can turn out replicas of a patient's organs has been developed by scientists in the US.
According to Angelini, who has published the technique this week in the journal Science Advances, the key to breakthrough is the composition and behaviour of the gel. "It's 99.8% water," he explains. "But the 0.2% comprises polymer grains of polyethylene glycol and polyacrylic acid."
Owing to this plastic behaviour, the matrix permits multiple passes to be made by the probe, so different materials can be deposited sequentially. "We could lay down endothelial cells, and then muscle cells to make a blood vessel," Angelini explains.
"We can take the CT or MRI scans of a patient's brain and then print a replica of the brain in three dimensions using a soft, solidifying material that the surgeon or his trainees can then practise on," says Angelini.
"This will totally transform the standard of surgical practices."
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