Okay, it doesn’t look like a liver, but this new 3D printed device can detoxify the blood like one. While it’s just a proof-of-concept, nanoengineers hope the liver-inspired device can be used like a dialysis one day.
Animal bites, stings, and bacterial infections can leave behind toxins in the blood that form pores and damage cellular membranes. Previous work has shown how nanoparticles can neutralize these pore-forming toxins -- but they end up accumulating in the liver. That could to lead secondary poisoning, which pretty much defeats the whole point.
This new device uses nanoparticles to trap those toxins, preventing any illnesses that may result. But to make these nanoparticles more digestible, the team led by Maling Gou and Shaochen Chen of the University of California, San Diego, created a 3D-printed hydrogel matrix to house them. The result is a device that mimics the liver’s function by first sensing, then attracting and capturing toxins routed from the blood. Like a dialysis, it's designed to be used outside the body. It’s large surface area is specifically designed to trap toxins within itself, turning red as it captures them.
The biofabrication technology used is called dynamic optical projection stereolithography, and it uses a projection system and tiny mirrors to shine a light on photosensitive biopolymers and cells in a solution. This forms one solid layer at a time, continuously. Its resolution is at the nanoscale -- useful for producing blood vessels and other tiny, detailed structures.
The work was published in Nature Communications last week.
[Via UC San Diego]