Sciperio, the research arm of micro-3D printing equipment manufacturer nScrypt, has announced a collaborative project to manufacture on-demand transfusion-safe human blood using nScrypt’s SmartPump technology.
Joining Sciperio will be the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), the Geneva Foundation, Safi Biosolutions, Advanced Bioprocess Services, and Massachusetts General Hospital, forming the contributors to the 4D Bio On-Demand Blood Program.
Sciperio and Safi Biosolutions will be funding the first year of the program with their jointly awarded $8.8M, during which they expect to finalize a ‘whole blood development roadmap’. Sciperio will be developing an integral component in the blood manufacturing project, an automated rugged bioreactor filled with sensors for real time feedback and control. The SmartPump will be used to microdispense (a micro additive manufacturing method) ingredients in precise amounts into the bioreactor, where the blood will actually be manufactured.
The SmartPump microdispensing tool head has pico-liter volumetric control, with the smallest commercially available nozzle tip in the world – a mere 10 microns in diameter. Users of the SmartPump have the option to choose between over 10,000 readily available materials, from water to epoxies, through peanut butter and various pastes.
Using additive manufacturing to top up blood supplies
In the case of Sciperio’s project, multiple SmartPump tool heads will be used to dispense growth enhancers into the bioreactor, where stem cells will expand and differentiate into blood cells over time (which is where the 4D comes from).
According to Dr. Ken Church, CEO of nScrypt and Sciperio, the bioreactor is what will make the process scalable, with the component turning dozens of cells into billions of cells, which is what is required for a useful blood transfusion to take place. He goes on to explain that the project “will one day result in a steady source of safe and affordable on-demand blood made where and when it’s needed.”
The US Department of Defense initially helped establish the program to provide military personnel access to usable, non-contaminated, fresh human blood supplies wherever they may be in the world. The ability to manufacture transfusion-safe blood from scratch would eliminate the need for donor networks and the blood screening process. The processing, storage, and transport of blood would also be streamlined as it would all be produced on-demand, as and when needed.
This will not be the first time US defense forces have set their eyes on nScrypt’s 3D printing technology. Earlier this year, the capabilities of the nRugged, a 3D printer designed for harsh environments, were demonstrated to the US Army via the 3D printing of an orthopedic screw. nScrypt has also made significant strides towards some less conventional applications for its microdispensing tool, successfully 3D printing solder and adhesive dots in the 50-micron range. The company expects its high-precision tool head to be used for the manufacturing of 3D printed electronics in the future.
The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now.
Looking for a career in additive manufacturing? Visit 3D Printing Jobs for a selection of roles in the industry.
Featured image shows blood bags. Photo via Thinkstock.