Updated: Jan 30, 2021
3D printing has allowed medicine and technology to come together to create the future of organ transplants called bioprinting. This technology allows patients to get the necessary organ that they need without going through the hectic and long organ transplant list. This technology will enable doctors to personalize and modify the tissue to make the treatment more accurate.
The bioprinter deposits a layer of biomaterial that is used to create complex structures. The cells are first taken from the patient and cultivated into the bio-ink which then prints out the object. Alternately, if the cells are not available adult stem cells could be used as a replacement. When printing the cells are held together by a dissolvable gel which could also then help to mold the organ into the right shape. This technology could eliminate all the complications of transplanting organs from one patient to another such as infection.
Bioprinters use cells or adult stem cells that come directly from the patient itself which automatically eliminates any rejection the body might have. When the body rejects an organ the immune system could attack the body causing further complications to occur. However, like all things, bioprinting has disadvantages and risks of its own. For example, there is a huge question on whether the technology will work at that moment or not. There are also issues with ownership of the codes to develop these organs. There is always a chance that there is going to be a dispute on who owns the codes and who doesn't. Lastly, when creating the organs there is a possibility that unhealthy particles might be released into the air when handling the machine. This could cause a major problem because the affected air can affect the patients.
A team from Swansea University in the UK have used bioprinting to create an artificial bone matrix. Currently, extremely complex bone fractures are treated through a surgical procedure called bone grafting. This replaces missing or damaged bones with cement-based materials. However the structures don’t allow the formation of new bone tissues. The printed bones can be printed in the exact structure needed with a durable and regenerative biomaterial. This material is made from gelatine, agarose, collagen alginate, calcium phosphate, and polycaprolactone.
Another example of this technology would be in South Korea where they developed artificial corneas. The original donor corneas are made up of multiple chemical substances such as synthetic polymer but the 3D printed ones are built to copy the original pattern of the corneas shear stress generated by the frictional force of the 3D printing process. Regulating the shear stress allowed the researchers to control the pattern in which the fibrils were printed, meaning they could make sure these artificial corneas adequately reflected the structure of the native human cornea.
In conclusion bioprinting is the new future of 3D printing. It will help organ transplants, eliminate some complications, and get rid of the long organ list. It has been shown successfully in many places around the world. The UK and South Korea are 2 of the many examples of how this technology works.
Aslanyan, Larisa. “Advantages of 3D Bioprinting: What the Future Holds.” Izumi International Blog, info.izumiinternational.com/advantages-of-bioprinting.
Kent, Chloe. “3D Bioprinting: Is This the Future of Organ Transplantation?” Verdict Medical Devices, 30 Jan. 2020, www.medicaldevice-network.com/features/future-of-3d-bioprinting/.
“Pros & Cons - 3D Bioprinting.” Google Sites, sites.google.com/site/gsse2014b2/pros-cons.