Professor Dietmar Hutmacher with a 3D printed breast scaffold. Photo: Queensland University of Technology


May 9, 2014

Australian and European students will soon learn how to use 3D printing to create human body parts, with a world’s first master’s degree to be offered by four of the world’s leading research universities.

The international masters degree in medical treatments based on printing and regrowing human tissue has been launched by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, and three other universities: the University of Wollongong, the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands and the University of Würzburg in Germany.

Graduates will hold a masters degree from an Australian university in addition to a masters degree from a European university.

3D printed scaffold. Photo: Queensland University of Technology

“Graduates will be at the forefront of an industry that will always be in high demand given the ageing of populations around the world and which cannot be easily replicated by any other country.” said QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation’s Professor Dietmar W. Hutmacher who leads QUT’s biofabrication research.

Biofabrication is a process by which scientists employ 3D printers to regrow most types of human tissue. “Biofabrication can be used to repair cartilage, bone, muscles, nerves and skin that have been damaged by trauma, disease or cancer,” Hutmacher said.

Using 3D printer researchers can make individualized structures which dissolve into the body as the new tissue grows. These tailor-made structures are then implanted into the body to act as a scaffold on which the new tissue can grow.

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Boris Holzapfel with a model of a pelvis with a custom-made 3D printed scaffold. Photo: Queensland University of Technology

“For example, patients with a piece of skull missing have already been successfully fitted with a 3D-printed scaffold custom-made to fit the hole.” Hutmacher explained.

“The scaffolds contain the patient’s bone cells and growth enhancers so that the skull grows over and the scaffold is absorbed into the new bone.”

Associate Professor Travis Klein

“At QUT, we are already researching the use of such scaffolds to regrow breast tissue in women who’ve had surgery for breast cancer.” He said it would be up to five years until the technique could be used to regrow a breast. He expects a complete organ can be regenerated with 3D bio-printing technology within a few decades.

Professor Hutmacher said biofabrication was a multidisciplinary area of research that required an understanding of chemistry, physics, biology, medicine, robotics and computer science and welcomed graduates in these fields to apply for the masters degree.

The masters in biofabrication is supported by the Government of Australia and the European Union and will open to applicants later this year. It will admit 10 students per participating university to the degree.

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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