Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania have developed an advanced form of 3D bioprinting, with the use of Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) technology, to construct collagen scaffolds that can be turned into different human heart components from tissues and capillaries to a full organ.

Organs in a human body are built from specialized cells held together by a biological structure known as the extracellular matrix (ECM). Apart from supporting, ECM generate biochemical signals for them to carry out normal functions. Thus far, traditional 3D bioprinting methods are not able to replicate complex protein scaffold like ECM. As such, the FRESH technology is the first-of-its-kind, bringing the field of tissue engineering a step closer to its ultimate goal: reproducing a fully functionable human-sized organ.

FRESH 3D bioprinting method deposited collagen layer-by-layer within a pool of supporting gel, so that the collagen can solidify within it before being removed. The supporting gel can be easily removed by heating it under body temperature when printing is completed. In this way, the collagen printout remains intact. Researchers believe not only collagen scaffolds can be replicated using FRESH, but also alginate, fibrin or hyaluronic acid can also be 3D bioprinted.