Scientists have used a custom-made 3D printer to make a synthetic tissue that could have a variety of applications — including the ability to transmit long-distance electric signals much like nerves. The process, published in Science by an Oxford University team led by Hagan Bayley, prints a network of droplets made out of aqueous solutions — a liquid mixture — instead of the solids that standard 3D printers produce.
The printer, made specifically for this experiment since already-existent models weren’t up to the task, places tiny drops of liquid into an oil solution. The drops, instead of adhering to one another, are naturally separated by a lipid layer. When networks of these drops are printed in the tens of thousands — the researchers have produced networks containing up to 35,000 drops — the final result resembles caviar and has an elasticity similar to that of brain and fat tissues. These networks, according to the researchers, currently have a stable shelf life of a few weeks.
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