3D printing interest in and biomedical demand for bioprinting continue to increase. In this article, we take a look at what bioprinting is and why it's important.
Bioprinting is an additive manufacturing process where biomaterials such as cells and growth factors are combined to create tissue-like structures that imitate natural tissues.
The technology uses a material known as bioink to create these structures in a layer-by-layer manner. The technique is widely applicable to the fields of medicine and bioengineering. Recently, the technology has even made advancements in the production of cartilage tissue for use in reconstruction and regeneration.
In essence, bioprinting works in a similar way to conventional 3D printing. A digital model becomes a physical 3D object layer-by-layer. In this instance, however, a living cell suspension is utilized instead of a thermoplastic or a resin.
For this reason, in order to optimize cell viability and achieve a printing resolution adequate for a correct cell-matrix structure, it’s necessary to maintain sterile printing conditions. This ensures accuracy in complex tissues, requisite cell-to-cell distances, and correct output.
The process principally involves preparation, printing, maturation, and application. This can be summarized in the three key steps:
Several bioprinting methods exist, based on either extrusion, inkjet, acoustic, or laser technologies. Despite the various types, a typical bioprinting process has a more-or-less standard series of steps:
The greatest importance of bioprinting lies in the resulting tissue-like structures that mimic the actual micro- and macro-environment of human tissues and organs. This is critical in drug testing and clinical trials, with the potential, for example, to drastically reduce the need for animal trials.
When living tissues and organs need not come from humans, this budding technology offers other massive opportunities. One example is testing treatment for diseases using artificially affected tissues.
The process could also eradicate the headaches associated with organ donation and transplantation. Apart from the lack of available organs, the entire process is criticized from a moral and ethical perspective.
Organ replacement is the main objective, but tissue repair is also possible in the meantime. With bioink, it’s much easier to solve problems on a patient-specific level, promoting simpler operations.
Here are a few of the main application areas of bioprinting:
There are various other uses and applications of bioprinting, including producing foodstuffs such as meat and vegetables.
From the list of applications, it’s pretty clear that bioprinting will only continue to develop. It will surely justify its value both from a moral and ethical perspective, which is always a major challenge in technologies associated with nature. Let’s see where the technology is in a few more years!
License: The text of "What Is 3D Bioprinting? – Simply Explained" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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