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Want to print human cells? A 3D bio-printer makes it possible

Bio3D Technologies will soon launch its 3D bio-printer, which can produce a three-dimensional structure of a living material, such as a blood vessel or skin layer. 

SINGAPORE: Local researchers may be one step closer to producing human organs like kidneys, blood vessels and skin with Singapore's first 3D bio-printer. On Wednesday (Aug 6), start-up Bio3D Technologies will launch this machine, which prints with living tissue.

The 3D-printing machine allows scientists and medical researchers to build tissues - layer by layer. Once raw material such as human cells have been sourced, it is loaded into the bio-printer, along with a gel-like substance. What is produced is a three-dimensional structure of a living material, such as a blood vessel or a skin layer.

So far, the machine has successfully printed human heart cells. But going forward, developers say it will be a revolutionary tool for speeding up medical research.

Said Fan Mingwei, Co-Founder and Director of Bio3D Technologies: "Eventually we foresee the use of bio-printing in drug development, in stem cell and cancer research, whereby they can actually print human tissues like liver tissues, kidney tissues and brain tissues. These could be used for drug testing, for cancer research, for pathogenesis research, basically to understand how human tissues actually react to different drugs and bacteria."

Mr Fan took a three-year break from his undergraduate studies at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to focus on his start-up business. As 3D bio-printing is still a new technology, he believes it will take 20 to 30 years before organ printing becomes a possibility.

For now, the product has seen interest from international and local clients, including A*STAR and NTU. The university is one of the early adopters of bio-printing in Singapore and has printed cornea, skin, heart and lung tissue. But more time is needed before its research can be seen in hospitals.

The 3D bio-printer will be available for monthly leasing and will cost between $3,000 and $10,000, depending on the amount of customisation needed. The start-up decided to lease the bio-printer because its founders want to encourage local researchers to get into the bio-printing industry.

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