DNA can ‘glue’ 3D printed organs together

Scientists in the U.S have found that strands of DNA molecules can stick together 3D printed materials that could be used to make lab-grown organs and tissue.

Andrew Ellington and colleagues from the University of Texas published their results in the American Chemical Society journal Biomaterials Science & Engineering. They found that coating polystyrene or polyacrylamide nanoparticles with strands of DNA formed a gel that could be shaped by a 3D printer. They also proved that human cells are capable of growing in the gel, meaning it could be used to form the basis of human tissues and (eventually) organs.

Until now, the only way to put build objects using DNA has been on a nano level, with the results invisible to the naked eye and time-consuming and expensive to replicate or scale up. Ellington and his team set out to make something larger and easier to work with, and hope that their success will literally provide the building blocks for new organs, so that more people who need transplants will be able to have them.

It’ll be a while before this technique becomes widespread, but for now it’s heartening to know that 3D printing isn’t only about guns, chocolate, and unattractive homeware products, but saving lives, as well.

By Christoph Bock via Wikimedia Commons.

Diane Shipley