Researchers from Hangzhou Dianzi University in China just announced they have invented the first 3D tissue printer with Independent Intellectual Property Rights (IIPR) in China. They named the printer "Regenovo" and have already used it to print multiple tissue samples including liver units and human ear cartilage.
Xu Ming'en, Regenovo's developer, said that it takes the printer under an hour to produce either a mini liver sample or a four to five inch ear cartilage sample. Xu also predicted that fully functional printed organs may be possible within the next ten to twenty years. That puts their target date right in line with other bioprinting research labs around the world.
Unfortunately, the researchers from Hangzhou Dianzi did not give out enough information for us to do a side-by-side comparison of the Regenovo with its counterparts at Organovo, Wake Forest, Cornell or the University of Iowa. However, we do know that it can print in aseptic conditions and includes temperature control cartridges allowing it to print in temperatures ranging from 23° F to 500°F. The cell damage rate for the Regenovo printing process is apparently quite low; around 90% of the cells survive and so far the researchers have been able to keep them alive for up to four months.
According to Xu, the Regenovo is a work in progress and there are still some kinks to be ironed out. "Before printing you can preview the print path of each layer and determine suitable speed and temperature. But the system is not yet smart enough; sometimes you have to control it manually."
This announcement marks the first time China has officially stepped into the bioprinting arena, but similar printers are already in use within the United States and abroad. Scientists from various labs are working on printable kidneys, spinal inserts, transplantable cartilage, skin grafts and more. NASA is even getting in on the research; they just awarded $100,000 to further bioprinting research at their Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.