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posted 02 November 2015 at 16:50:03

The race to produce the first working human organs has just stepped up a pace. In the past week, a group from Carnegie Mellon University has hacked a commercial 3D printer to create hi-resolution models of hearts, arteries, bones and brains out of biological materials such as collagen, alginates and fibrins.
Not to be outdone, a Chinese biotechnology company, Sichuan Revotek, announced that it has developed the world's first 3D blood vessel bio-printer, capable of producing personalised, functional organs.  
Soft materials are difficult to print, as they collapse under their own weight, but the Carnegie Mellon team, led by Adam Feinberg, printed the body part models in a support gel that biodegrades at body temperature.  
"Essentially, we print one gel inside another gel, which allows us to accurately position the soft material as it's being printed, layer by layer," said Feinberg. "It has really enabled us to accelerate development of new materials and innovate in this space. And we are also contributing back by releasing our 3D printer designs under an open source licence."  
China is an up-and-coming player in the 3D industry and Sichuan Revotek, a company based in Chengdu, revealed that its breakthrough was achieved with an in-house stem cell bio-ink technology, along with a 3D bio-printer and a cloud computing platform.  
"The creative breakthrough in 3D blood vessel bio-printing means we have mastered the stem cell-based 3D bio-printing technology," said Yang Keng, chairman of Sichuan Languang Development Co. Ltd. "We have successfully realised the blood vessel regeneration by relying on the 3D bio-printed, the biosynsphere technology and the data model based on cloud computing."  
Both developments are a step towards the holy grail of many scientists, who hope that 3D printed organs will be the biggest medical and technological breakthrough of recent times.