UTEP researchers breaking boundaries with 3-D Cell Printer

Utep researchers breaking boundaries with 3-D Cell Printer

El Paso, TEXAS - The biomedical department at the University of Texas-El Paso has been working on 3-D printed breast implants, and the possibilities of this development could be limitless.

Within the halls of UTEP, a high-tech printer is working.

"We have 3-D printers, that can print various precise shapes," said professor Thomas Boland, who has been leading the cutting-edge technology.

This isn't the usual printer you can find in a local office.

"We're trying to regenerate tissues," said Boland.

That's right, tissue.

"The same machine, but instead of printing ink and colors we print cells," says Boland.

It's the latest project by UTEP's Biomedical Engineering Department.

The research is going toward helping breast cancer patients. For example, if a woman receives a lumpectomy which only removes part of a woman's breast, Boland says it's harder and more painful to reconstruct than a full breast, and most women decide to have the whole breast removed.

But Boland tells ABC-7 the big difference with biomedical engineering. "We use patients' own cells, so if we succeed in printing 3-D cells structured out of those cells, they wouldn't be rejected by the patient."

The printed tissue could be used to help reconstruct or fill in the removed area of the breast.

The research is not only a huge development for breast cancer patients but for the university and students as well.

"Students could get there degree as a Ph.D. doing this research. which again is criteria for the tier one research, so it all fits together for the mission of the university," said Boland.

Julio Licon is a Ph.D. student at UTEP. He helped engineer the printer.

"We have developed very important significant data for now for example printed skin, which one day will signify a lot for people that got burnt or people that require breast implants," said Licon.

Right now, the printed tissue is being generated in small sheets, but Boland says it's a stepping stone to creating larger pieces of tissue and and eventually organs.

"Potentially this could be applied to a liver, maybe even a heart in the future," said Boland.

"In the long run it's definitely going to be a huge impact on the world," said Licon.

Boland tells ABC-7, a company has already jumped on board to help with the research, and they now have patents pending.

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