Letters printed in living cells

(Note: This article originally appeared on Acceler8or.com on July 31, 2012.  It’s republished here for my own archives.)

Scientists in Canada have invented a device they claim can print large patches of living tissue.

In an article which appears this month in the journal Advanced Materials, Axel Guenther of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Milica Radisic of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto detail a machine they’ve created which can precisely print living tissue to order.

Their device uses biochemicals to create layers of “mosaic hydrogel,” a substrate into which living cells can be precisely deposited, like agar in a petri dish. The placement of the cells is so precise, the scientists were able to print the word “Toronto” on to the substrate.

But beyond manufacturing single layers of the tissue, by collecting layers of the printed tissue material, the scientists were able to build three-dimensional structures of substantial thickness.

It isn’t yet commercialized, but Guenther has bold plans for the technology. “My laboratory is currently pursuing different applications of the technology—different tissues,” Guenther said in a press release. “But one of my dreams is to one day engineer a vascularized leaf – perhaps a maple leaf.”

Needless to say, a system for printing living tissue on demand could have enormous ramifications for future biotech. Low hanging fruit? Generating new skin for treating burn victims, growing custom organs for transplant, or synthesizing tissues specifically designed to produce new medicines. But paired with recent advances in synthetic biology, there may an amplification effect which we can scarcely imagine now.

Only time will tell.

Image courtesy of UCF Today

The University of Central Florida (my undergrad alma mater) has some kind words about my little sister, Arden, who’s about to graduate from their nursing program.

She’s a real contender in the friendly, familial competition for  who can spend the most time in school, especially since she’s going back in the fall.

Monroe-Obermeit’s eight years of performing more than 3,000 autopsies and 500 death scene investigations, as well as a life-changing experience with a nurse practitioner, drove her to enroll in UCF’s College of Nursing.

“I saw too many deaths caused by people ignoring their diabetes or their heart conditions,” said Monroe-Obermeit. “In nursing, I absolutely love teaching patients how to avoid becoming a case at the morgue.”

Excellent work, sis!

This reflects, quite consisely, what I think about health care reform in the US:

All of us put our money into a big pot, and when you have medical expenses, you take some money out of the big pot.

That—in 25 words—is everything you need to know about health-care insurance.

This is no different from the Golden Rule, originally formulated by Rabbi Hillel, who added, “The rest is commentary.”

To read some of the aforementioned commentary, please read the whole article by Ira Rosofsky at Psychology Today’s website.

This came my way via @Frauenfelder.

Wow, this is awesome.  Some folks in England invented a robot that does science — from hypothesis, to testing, to conclusion — and it actually generated new knowledge autonomously!  Outstanding.

“The scientists at Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge designed Adam to carry out each stage of the scientific process automatically without the need for further human intervention. The robot has discovered simple but new scientific knowledge about the genomics of the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, an organism that scientists use to model more complex life systems. The researchers have used separate manual experiments to confirm that Adam’s hypotheses were both novel and correct.”

The study will be published in tomorrow’s edition of Science.