Our donut and fizzy sugar water consumption aside, we're working hard on keeping our arteries from clogging these days, but we must admit to being somewhat more reassured about our prospects of longevity whenever we read stories about tissue engineering like this:
Gabor Forgacs, a biophysicist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, described his "bioprinting" technique last week at the Experimental Biology 2006 meeting in San Francisco. It relies on droplets of "bioink", clumps of cells a few hundred micrometres in diameter, which Forgacs has found behave just like a liquid.
This means that droplets placed next to one another will flow together and fuse, forming layers, rings or other shapes, depending on how they were deposited. To print 3D structures, Forgacs and his colleagues alternate layers of supporting gel, dubbed "biopaper", with the bioink droplets. To build tubes that could serve as blood vessels, for instance, they lay down successive rings containing muscle and endothelial cells, which line our arteries and veins. "We can print any desired structure, in principle," Forgacs told the meeting.
We could tell you about how their method might be faster and therefore more desirable than the 3D scaffolding and 3D inkjet printing used thus far in tissue engineering, but forget that—we're just excited at the thought we might get less spam of the "She wants a better sex? All you need's here!" sort once labs can just grow bigger replacement dongs on order.