Does Bioprinting Mean Creating Living Body Parts? Featured

By Gamal Khattab September 24, 2023 2836

What is bioprinting? It's a cool technology that combines 3D printing with biomaterials to create body parts that look and function like the real thing. Bioprinting is mainly used for drug research and helping to repair damaged ligaments and joints. Scientists have been using bioprinting in medicine since 2007, and they have been able to recreate almost every tissue, cartilage, and organ in the body!

How Bioprinting Works

Bioprinting starts with a special kind of printer called a bioprinter. This printer can print in three dimensions, which means it can create objects with depth. Instead of using regular ink, a bioprinter uses biomaterials like living cells, synthetic glue, and collagen scaffolds to build an object layer by layer. This process is called additive manufacturing.

But it's not as simple as just putting materials into the printer and pressing a button.

First, the printer needs a blueprint, which is a computer-generated image of what it's going to create.

Then, the materials are fed into the printer, and it reads the digital file while printing out the layers to recreate the object.

Each layer sticks to the previous one, creating a solid piece.

To get the living cells for bioprinting, researchers can take them directly from the patient or use adult stem cells that can be manipulated to become the specific cells needed for printing.

The blueprint for bioprinting is often a scan of the patient, which helps the printer recreate the tissue accurately.

Bioprinting on a Chip

One exciting use of bioprinting is in testing regenerative medicine. At the Wyss Institute at Harvard, researchers have developed a bioprinter that can create living human tissues on a chip. They connect the tissue to a vascular channel, which allows them to provide nutrients to the tissue and monitor its growth and development. This helps them study new techniques in regenerative medicine and test drugs without using animals.

Bioprinting and Bone Grafts

Another area where bioprinting is making progress is in bone grafts. Researchers at Swansea University in Wales have developed bioprinters that can create artificial bone materials in specific shapes using durable materials. This can help fix problems with bones and joints caused by tumors, trauma, infection, or genetic deformities. The University of Nottingham in England has also made gains in this area by bioprinting a copy of a bone and coating it with stem cells, which eventually replace the scaffold with new bone.

Bioprinting and Regenerative Skin and Tissue

Bioprinting is also being used to create skin and other tissues. Researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine are exploring how bioprinting can help burn victims who don't have enough undamaged skin for grafts. By scanning the patient's wound and using a bioprinter, they can create new skin that can be used for healing. At Pennsylvania State University, researchers are working on bioprinting cartilage to repair tissue in the knees and other areas.

Bioprinting Vessels

One of the most exciting applications of bioprinting is in creating blood vessels. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a method to print agarose fibers that serve as vessels. These bioprinted vessels are strong enough to form larger networks and can be used for transplants, drug testing, and personalized medicine.

It is still too early

Bioprinting is a fascinating field of research, and scientists have made great strides in creating body parts like bones, skin, vessels, and even organs. However, there is still much more progress to be made before these practices become widely used in medicine. Some applications, like bioprinting skin for burn victims, may be ready within the next five years. However, recreating organs for human use still requires much more development.

Bioprinting also offers new ways to study the human body and test drugs without invasive procedures. It has the potential to lead to more personalized medicine with fewer side effects. So, keep an eye out for more exciting advancements in bioprinting!