Queensland University of Technology’s Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology Group will be at the forefront of 3D tissue printing technology. According to Associate Professor Mia Woodruff, 3D tissue printing is “the difference between life and death for people waiting for an organ donor.”

The 3D printing process includes scanning, 3D modeling, and tissue engineering. In order to manufacture tissue especially for complex body parts, it takes groundbreaking technology and clinical research. Working alongside Metro North Hospital and Health Service, QUT will bring together the best and brightest to develop tech and print cartilage, bone and other human tissue.

The ultimate prize is the ability to 3D print a rejection-proof organ built from a patient’s own cells. Since this is the first hospital specializing in 3D bioprinting, there’s a feeling that something special is about to happen. “It will be the first time a biomanufacturing institute will be co-located with a high-level hospital,” said Australian Minister of Health Cameron Dick. “Our vision for health care is that the biofabrication institute will pave the way for 3D printers to sit in operating theaters, ready to print tissue as needed, in our hospitals of the future.”

According to a recent Engadget article, “researchers have grown bladders from patients’ own cells and successfully transplanted them, and attached human ear prosthesis made (in part) from living tissue.” Since this has proven to be successful, Metro North and QUT will focus their biofabrication efforts on cartilage and bone. Because of the consistent flow of blood needed to keep major body parts alive, more complex organs like the liver or kidneys will take a back seat until easier-to-manage body parts are printed successfully.

“A lot of the implants we are developing, we can implant into a patient and as the tissue grows back, it is not rejected, the scaffold will reabsorb over time and the tissue will grow even more and eventually the implant is one,” says Professor Woodruff. “We don’t always have to use metallic implants anymore, we can develop really high-spec composite materials that dissolve as the tissue heals.”

The establishment of a biofabrication institute is the first step towards the larger goal of reducing the organ donor list. In order to print cartilage, bone and other human tissue, researchers need to develop new technology. With medical device companies like RealView, Ltd designing Image Intimacy – the world’s first 3D holography system – innovation in 3D printing would have an immediate and widespread impact.

Researchers at QUT now have a state-of-the-art facility capable of groundbreaking work in 3D tissue printing. As the Minister of Health so eloquently stated in the Brisbane Times: “This institute, opening in 2017, will catapult Queensland onto the global stage as a leader in medical innovation and technology that will change the face of healthcare.”