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Historically, laboratory-engineered tissue samples have entailed combining artificial scaffolds with animal cells. This manual method has problems with uniformity, speed, and cost. Uniformity in particular is critical to researchers seeking to create a specific type of cell. A three-dimensional printer is potentially faster, cheaper, and more uniform. Although better known for producing food, aircraft parts, bobbleheads, and gun parts, three-dimensional printers are now capable of printing with biological material.

In February 2013 at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, researchers in conjunction with Roslyn Cellab, reported that they had developed a printer capable of using liver embryonic cells as the “ink.” Using a valve-based control customized to accommodate the delicacy of the cells, the printer deposits ink from two separate reservoirs onto a plate in a uniform preprogrammed ...

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