Researchers 3-D print liver-like device to detoxify blood

James Temple
Nanoengineers have developed a 3D printed device inspired by the liver to remove dangerous toxins from the blood.
Source: UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Researchers at UC San Diego have developed a 3-D-printed device that can detoxify blood in much the same manner as the liver, using nanoparticles to lure and trap toxins that damage cells.

The "biomimetic 3D detoxifier" is specifically designed to remove "pore-forming toxins" that can pierce the membrane of healthy cells. These are often the result of venomous animal bites or stings, or an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (more commonly known as a staph infection).

Other scientists have shown that nanoparticles in the bloodstream can bind with and neutralize toxins, but they can also accumulate in the liver, "posing a risk of secondary poisoning especially in liver-failure patients," the scientists wrote in a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications.

More from Re/code:
25 Years of Personal Technology
Mobile'sTrojan Horse: Third-Party Platforms
Alibaba Owns 40 Percent of Amazon Competitor ShopRunner

In this case, the researchers created a detoxifier designed for use outside the body, much like a dialysis machine. In one study conducted outside the body, the device "completely neutralized" toxins.

Read MoreWhy the Norwegian army is using Oculus Rift

The researchers added:

This device is created by 3D printing of designer hydrogels with … nanoparticles installed in the hydrogel matrix. The nanoparticles can attract, capture and sense toxins, while the 3D matrix … allows toxins to be trapped efficiently.

Our results show that the toxin solution completely loses its virulence after treatment using this biomimetic detoxification device. This work provides a proof-of-concept of detoxification by a 3D-printed biomimetic nanocomposite construct in hydrogel, and could lead to the development of alternative detoxification platforms.

"The concept of using 3D printing to encapsulate functional nanoparticles in a biocompatible hydrogel is novel," said Shaochen Chen, a UC San Diego nanoengineering professor who led the research team, in a statement. "This will inspire many new designs for detoxification techniques since 3D printing allows user-specific or site-specific manufacturing of highly functional products."

By James Temple, Re/

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.