3D printing can definitely help to solve some of the problems that we have actually in the medical sector. For example, when a patient needs an organ for a transplant or a new skin tissue to heal an important wound, we have to wait for a donor. Waiting for a donor is a long process, but these patients don’t really have time to waste. That is precisely where the additive manufacturing technology can help them: it can use the patient’s cells to create a functional organ, an organ part or now, even a brand new skin tissue!
This process could really help accident victims and burned patients by providing viable skin grafts. It will be a real time-saving technique, and it will considerably ease the whole process as only one machine will be required. Donors and additional surgeries will not be needed anymore.
In this article, we will see how 3D bioprinting works, what are the experiments that have been made, and how promising 3D bioprinters are.
3D printing in the medical industry
Obviously, additive manufacturing is becoming a great asset for the medical industry. This printing technology can be used both for prototyping and production. There are even 3D modeling software dedicated to the medical industry.
The additive manufacturing technology allows to reduce costs and to produce customized parts more easily and way faster than with traditional manufacturing processes. With the development of new 3D printers and new 3D printing materials such as biocompatible materials, it is becoming possible to print a lot of different things for the medical sector.
What is 3D bioprinting and how does it work?
To make it simple, 3D bioprinting is the use of the 3D printing technology to create living tissues and organs. There are different steps to follow in order to get a bioprinted structure. As it is an additive manufacturing technique, it is working by adding layers of material.
First, the perfect 3D bioprinting material has to be chosen or developed. Is it to create human skin tissue? Organs, cartilage or body parts? Then, a 3D modeling software is needed in order to design the part that will be bioprinted. The 3D bioprinter will then be able to print automatically the 3D model, layer by layer. Maturation is also part of the process for bioprinting, because cells have to grow and proliferate, this can’t be done instantly.
3D Printed body parts
The 3D bioprinted ears are now a reality. A lot of experiments are made with this new additive manufacturing process. In China, bioprinting surgery has been made on children with undeveloped ears. Scientists bioprinted a new ear with the cartilage cells of the deformed ear. These experiments were a success as ears were not rejected. They stayed healthy and they are now becoming more and more accurate with time.
Bioprinting to cure cancer?
Researchers of the Queen Mary University of Engineering and Materials Science in London created new structures thanks to 3D bioprinting. They developed new bioinks. The process developed by this team will allow to get cells living and growing in their environment, reacting the exact same way than cells inside of a patient’s body. It will enable scientists to create more complex scenario for drug testing and analyze directly the behaviour of human cells, without testing it on a real human. This method also appears to be a good solution to study cancer growth and see the reactions of the cells.
Commercialization of bioprinted skin tissue
Poietis is a french biotechnology company specialized in regenerative medicine. The company is about to commercialize Poieskin, a 3D bioprinted skin. It is the first company ever to commercialize bioprinted skin. Poietis is offering partnerships to design, create tissues that will be adapted to any needs or any projects. This bioprinted skin can be used for drug development, or ingredient testing for instance. They are actually working with big companies to develop 3D tissue models for research and therapeutic purposes.