Researcher use near-infrared light to 3D print an ear inside the body

Researchers from china and the US are working together to find better ways to treat patients without causing additional trauma during regenerative practices, surgical implantation, and plastic surgery. The scientist use near-infrared (NIR) light technology for this project because it is versatile (used in drug release systems, photodynamic therapy, photothermal therapy, in vivo imaging, 3D imaging, and more). Hoping to create a new form of noninvasive 3D printing systems the bioprinter prints directly into tissue without the need for surgical implant.

The researchers began by assessing the process in vitro “Because of the excellent capacity of supporting cells for survival or proliferation, biocompatible hydrogels are commonly used as the matrix materials for bioprinting. Here, we found that the DNP process could fast print the GelMA-derived hydrogel obstacles by a layer-by-layer manner, and the time of printing a 200-mm-thick layer is about 15 s. Then, the capacity of the DNP process in 3D printing of complex hydrogel constructs was evaluated.”

The team did further experiments, like printing a three-ring structure at decreasing widths—from 200 to 100 mm, and other complex geometries showcasing the precision. Using pig and mice skin the researchers created circular structures and noted that using either the skin or tissue did not cause any changes to the print quality, in fact, they showed that in one or seven days after printing, tissues were free of ‘significant inflammation’ or abnormalities.

This indicates that the DNP-based noninvasive bioprinting process did not cause obvious side effect in situ,” stated the researchers. In printing a customized ear-shaped tissue structure, the researchers realized success—and potential for future treatment of auricle defects or microtia.

“Meanwhile, the noninvasively printed conformal ASC-laden scaffold can promote the healing of the muscle defects, showing potential clinical application. Therefore, the demonstrated noninvasive in vivo 3D bioprinting technology could provide a novel tool to advance the minimally invasive or noninvasive medicine, showing potential clinical applications,” concluded the researchers.


Essop, Anas, et al. “University Researchers Use near-Infrared Light 3D Printing to Create an Ear inside the Body .” 3D Printing Industry, 12 June 2020,

O’Neal, Bridget. “In Vivo Bioprinting Made Possible with Digital Near-Infrared Photopolymerization – 3DPrint.Com: The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.” 3DPrint.Com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, 11 June 2020,