Speed Reads

Solving COVID

Scientists are 3-D printing miniature human organs to test coronavirus drugs

Whether the goal is to find a treatment for COVID-19 or another disease, scientists often have to conduct preliminary tests on animals to determine whether the drug is safe or effective in people. It's not always a one-for-one comparison, but The New York Times reports there may be a new way around that step going forward: 3-D printing.

For example, Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and his team are using 3-D printers to create tiny replicas of human organs, including miniature lungs and colons, which are particularly affected by the coronavirus. They send them overnight for testing at a biosafety lab at George Mason University.

The idea predated the coronavirus — Atala said he never thought "we'd be considering this for a pandemic" — but it could come in handy and help expedite the experimental drug process, especially since Atala said his Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based lab can churn out thousands of printed organs per hour. "The 3-D models can circumvent animal testing and make the pathway stronger from the lab to the clinic," said Akhilesh Gaharwar, who directs a lab in the biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University. Read more at The New York Times.