Scientists have used 3D-printing technology to create first-of-their-kind structures made of living tissue. The bioprinter breakthrough has shown promise with cartilage, bone and muscle, opening the prospect of creating replacement human body parts. Researchers using a bioprinter, described Monday in Nature Biotechnology, say that they’ve found a way to manufacture living muscle, bone and cartilage. They say that this technology can make unprecedented advances in the healing of battlefield injuries by using a combination of living cells and a plastic-like material.

While printed tissue has been accomplished before, scientists have not figured out a way to nourish the tissues by allowing blood vessels to colonize them after they are transplanted. “Cells simply cannot survive without a blood vessel supply that’s smaller than 200 microns [0.07 inches], which is extremely small,” Atala told Gizmodo. “That’s the maximum distance. And that’s not just for printing, that’s nature.” So far, the manufactured body parts have only been tested on laboratory animals, but the transplants were stable enough to be considered successful in those tests. READ MORE