Looking at the world of 3D printing and additive manufacturing, there is hardly an industry that remains untouched by the design and prototyping breakthroughs we have experienced in the past decade. While it is easy to envision prototyping as a way to create better automobiles, tech devices or work equipment, some of the most exciting ideas come out of the concept of “bioprinting.” Prototyping and bioprinting quite literally will revolutionize our lifetime. Excited yet?
3D printing in the medical field got its start in prosthetics and orthodontics, where highly specific models helped push and revolutionize medical care. Even complex surgeries have used 3D printing to replicate every stage of an otherwise impossible operation. Bioprinting has been around for a while, as well. 3D printing has created several types of human tissue, such as liver tissue, but never has an entire organ been bioprinted. The implications for printing organs are enormous. Patients waiting for transplants has been the focus of fundraising events, awareness campaigns and even created a black market. Bioprinting can solve this problem, if the kinks can be worked out.
The problem has always been blood supply and oxygen. Without an adequate network, the organ dies. Global research might just make that problem solvable. Current efforts are focused on coating the bioprinted fibers (made to represent the vascular structure of an organ) with a protein based material and human cells, which are then hardened in a sort of mold. Once the mold is removed, the network of spaces is left behind – amazing.
Bioprinting will surely change the way the medical world deals with organ transplants, tissue replacement and other critical medical issues facing the world today. With the help of technological advancement, major medical issues – once the cause of certain death today without adequate transplants – may be a thing of the past within a few short years!