UTSA biomedical engineering program acquires 3D bioprinter

Equipment can print tissues, potentially regenerate organs

SAN ANTONIO – The Envision-TEC 3D-Bioplotter System is one of the latest developments in regenerative medicine. It's also a new addition in Teja Guda's biomedical engineering lab at University of Texas at San Antonio.

Guda and his graduate students are testing the printer with silicone now, but will soon move into printing grafts for bones, skeletal muscle, pancreas tissue and salivary glands with cell samples from rats.

"What we're looking at is potentially taking cells from your own body, making the perfect home for those cells and putting them right back into you to regrow tissues or organs that you're missing," Guda said. "Now, this seems like science fiction today but we're actually much closer to that in reality than most people would think."

The assistant professor of biomedical engineering thinks simpler tissues will be printed within four to five years. In terms of complex organs, like kidneys and livers, he predicts the printer might help engineers print replacement for a person's damaged organs within 10 years.

Guda said the challenge will be making sure the organs printed using a gel of living cells will keep shape and stay alive once printed.

"Instead of having repeated surgeries, you get away with one single procedure and the tissue success rate is that much higher, you have much fewer complications and quality of life is that much higher," Guda said.

Passions run high in the group of engineers studying the technology at UTSA. That's because they hope the machine has the potential to help soldiers avoid amputations.

The printer is also expected to aid research into the complications of organ transplantation, such as tissue compatibility and survival.