The Think-jet Printer
Scientists invent a way to 'print' live brain cells - Reconstruction and replacement of defective body parts may have moved a step closer this week thanks to an invention from UK researchers at the University of London who have designed a printer that can spit out ultrafine droplets containing live brain cells. The device is based upon the workings of an ink-jet printer, but instead of forcing the cells through a tiny hole - which damages the cells and has frustrated previous attempts to produce a printer like this - the new device uses an electrified nozzle, charged up to 30 kiloVolts, to produce tiny blobs of fluid which measure just a few thousandths of a millimetre across and contain a small number of live cells. Writing in the Biotechnology Journal, inventors Suwan Jayasinghe, Amer Quereshi and Peter Eagles, have tested the device on mouse brain cells and human white blood cells, which seemed to tolerate the experience without harm. The new approach could usher in novel treatments whereby doctors can build replacement tissues cell by cell in three dimensions, although it's early days yet and the researchers still need to confirm that the cells suffer no long-term harm and can survive being printed into the specific shapes that biomedicine is likely to require.