This remarkable achievement was made possible by the recently debuted Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP) designed by a research team led by Anthony Atala from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine to replace damaged or missing body parts. The team further demonstrated ITOP's capabilities by 3D printing a jaw bone, muscle tissue, and cartilage structures.
The ITOP system creates its artificial human body parts in a manner similar to other 3D printers, which apply layer upon layer to build a product in a process called additive manufacturing. Rather than plastic or metal, ITOP uses specially designed biomaterials that closely emulate the structure of actual living tissue. Prior to ITOP, existing printers were challenged by the need to create tissues of sufficient strength.