By Anita Oh
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Line by line, it prints. But, not paper, nor plastic.
It’s a 3D bioprinter, called the BioBot 1 and it’s churning out living tissue.
“Humans are really good at building buildings and clothing and t-shirts, but the most complicated things in the room is us. It’s living things and we have no idea how it works,” said Danny Cabrera.
So, a few years ago, Cabrera and Ricky Solorzano decided to do something about it while they studied at the University of Pennsylvania.
“When we started it, it was Ricky and I out of our dorm room on top of a bar a few blocks from Penn’s campus. Now we’ve grown to about a dozen people,” Cabrera said.
Before BioBots was created, a 3D bioprinter was so large you couldn’t even pick it up. But, this model fits right on your desktop and only weighs about 20 pounds.
That is part of the reason why the creators believe they’ve seen success so quickly. Right now, researchers across 20 countries are using the $10,000 BioBot to print small tissue samples or miniature bones.
“We think the initial steps will be drug testing. It’s so valuable to mimic what your body does outside the body so, you can say hey, is this drug going to work well in your body, before you take it and it does any harm to you,” Solorzano explained.
Using computer software, they can upload MRI, or CAT Scan, images as a guide for the bioprinter. The BioBot uses different types of “bioinks,” also available through the company, which range in cost from $10 to more than $500, depending on the biomaterial.
When we visited the BioBots headquarters in University City, the machine, which uses a mixture of living cells and biomaterials, was replicating a human ear.
So far, that’s not being tested on humans, but BioBots founders say the possibilities for the future are endless.
“Our clients are really excited about the possibility to build fully functioning organs or tissue out of a patients own cells to eliminate the organ waiting list,” Cabrera said.
Yet, while they remain excited about breaking new ground in the scientific community…”I look forward and there’s still so much we have left to do,” Solorzano said.