What is 3D Bioprinting?
3D bioprinting is the process of generating spatially-controlled cell patterns using 3D printing technology, where cell function and viability are preserved within the printed construct. The first patent related to this technology was filed in the United States in 2003 and granted in 2006. 3D bioprinting is being applied to regenerative medicine to address the need for tissues and organs suitable for transplantation. Compared with non-biological printing, 3D bioprinting involves additional complexities, such as the choice of materials, cell types, growth and differentiation factors, and technical challenges related to the sensitivities of living cells and the construction of tissues. Addressing these complexities requires the integration of technologies from the fields of engineering, biomaterials science, cell biology, physics, and medicine. 3D bioprinting has already been used for the generation and transplantation of several tissues, including multilayered skin, bone, vascular grafts, tracheal splints, heart tissue and cartilaginous structures. Other applications include developing high-throughput 3D-bioprinted tissue models for research, drug discovery and toxicology.
3D Bioprinting Process
Creating biological constructs via 3D bioprinting usually involves dispensing cells onto biocompatible scaffold using a successive layer-by-layer approach to generate tissue-like three-dimensional structures. Typically, the first step in bioprinting involves getting a biopsy of the organ. From this examination, certain cells are isolated and multiplied. These cells are then mixed with a special liquefied material that provides oxygen and other nutrients to keep them alive. Finally, the mixture is placed in a printer cartridge and structured using the patients’ medical scans. When a bioprinted pre-tissue is transferred to an incubator, this cell-based pre-tissue matured into a tissue. Bioreactors work in either providing convective nutrient transport, creating microgravity environments, changing the pressure causing solution to flow through the cells, or add compression for dynamic or static loading. Each type of bioreactor is ideal for different types of tissue, for example compression bioreactors are ideal for cartilage tissue.
Applications of 3D Bioprinting?
San Diego-based Organovo, an “early-stage regenerative medicine company,” was the first company to commercialize 3D bioprinting technology. The company uses its NovoGen MMX Bioprinter for 3D bioprinting. The printer is optimized to be able to print skin tissue, heart tissue, and blood vessels among other basic tissues that could be suitable for surgical therapy and transplantation. A research team at Swansea University in the UK is using bioprinting technology to produce soft tissues and artificial bones for eventual use in reconstructive surgery. Bioprinting technology will eventually be used to create fully functional human organs for transplants and drug research. This will allow for more effective organ transplants and safer more effective drugs.