3D bioprinters will break the boundaries of medical technology for doctors, patients, and future generations requiring healthcare
3D bioprinters are leading to profound breakthroughs in medical technology, organ reproduction, and skin replication. While 3D printing is primarily used for the fabrication of plastics, metals, and edibles, 3D printing organs is a startling advancement for the industry. Research in 3D bioprinting is still in the early stages but scientists are already discovering potential uses that will save and repair lives.
In 2002 Makoto Nakamura discovered similarities between individual cell size and the size of ink droplets used in inkjet printers. By 2008, the concept spread like wildfire and 3D bioprinting became a hot topic of research for 3D printed organs, tissues, cells, and skin.
Organovo’s 3D bioprinting technology is one of many new discoveries using 3D printing. Their bioprinter is potentially capable of creating or reconstructing tissue. Just like a typical 3D printer, the 3D bioprinter head will move along the X, Y, and Z axes building layers upon layers of cells until a complete 3D printed organ is produced.
University of Edinburgh continues work on their cell 3D bioprinter. This unit bio-prints embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can then be used to make human tissues for further medical research and testing.
Scientists at the University of Missouri are using 3D bio-printers to produce blood vessels and sheets of cardiac tissue that beat like a human heart. The process involves bioprinting artificial biological molecules and then shaping them into the required form using a laser.
In 2010, the Laser Center Hannover in Germany successfully 3D bioprinted skin cells using a laser. This research is leading the way into treatment for burn victims or patients suffering from skin disease. 3D bioprinting skin tissue will eventually eliminate the need for traditional skin grafting.
3D bioprinting enables other forms of medical advancements. For example, 3D bioprinted “smart bandages” are designed to stimulate blood vessel growth in wounds. Smart bandages help direct the flow and growth of blood vessels around blocked arteries or even redirect blood flow that feeds tumors.
With the advent of 3D printing organs, tissue, and cells, a new generation of replication technology is taking place in the biomedical and medical fields. The implications of 3D bioprinters will help fuel advancements in surgeries, preventative medicine, and repair. At the same time, 3D bioprinters could potentially make medical access easier, abundant, and cheaper for humans throughout the world.