This is no ordinary printout. The pattern has been created not by ink, but by living human cells. Two types – stem cells (stained red) and blood vessel wall cells (stained green) – have been positioned on a patch using a device that’s similar to an office inkjet printer. Each cell type is released onto the patch in a set order, just as droplets of ink are printed onto paper. When the patch was applied to a damaged rat heart, the stem cells were able to help the blood vessels regenerate. Cells printed into a grid like this did a better job than those randomly jumbled up on the patch. Scientists now are beginning to print cells in three dimensions, creating made-to-order structures that resemble living tissues. Perhaps one day they will be able to print out whole organs at the touch of a button.
Written by Emma Stoye
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.