What if you could 3D print small devices that mimicked some of the functions of human organs, to address specific issues? That's what scientists at the University of California, San Diego have done by 3D-printing a liver-like device that's claimed capable of safely detoxifying blood.

Designed to be used outside the body, the device can sense, attract and neutralize toxins within the bloodstream. Nanoengineering Professor Shaochen Chen whose earlier work includes 3D printed blood vessels, created the liver-inspired device to capture pore-forming toxins capable of damaging cell membranes.

Though scientists have successfully used nanoparticles to neutralize toxins in blood, patients who use this treatment, run the risk of secondary poisoning if they are unable to effectively digest the nanoparticles and have them accumulate in the liver instead.

Chen 3D-printed a hydrogel matrix, encasing the nanoparticles to create a device capable of attracting and capturing toxins within itself. Equipped with a surface area that's larger than that of a human liver, the research team reported that the device completely neutralized toxins routed from the blood in an in vitro study.

"The concept of using 3D printing to encapsulate functional nanoparticles in a biocompatible hydrogel is novel," says Chen. "This will inspire many new designs for detoxification techniques since 3D printing allows user-specific or site-specific manufacturing of highly functional products."

The device also changes color when it captures the toxins, turning red in the process. Chen is currently developing a special biofabrication technology called dynamic optical projection stereolithography (DOPsL) to 3D print the liver-mimicking microstructure.

The research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: UC San Diego