Printing the human body?

3D ORGAN PRINTING - principles and future prospects.

Regenerative medicine and bioprinting

What is regenerative medicine?


  • it is concerned with restoring structure and function of damaged tissues and organs.
  • it includes field like tissue engineering (the study of the growth of new connective tissues, or organs for implantation back into the donor host) , but also incorporates research on self-healing.


What is bioprinting?

Bioprinting is the 3D printing of biological structures (eg: tissues,organs) where cell function and viability are preserved within the printed construct.

What is the recipe for making a tissue?

Cells

"The building blocks"

Cells from the patient ( (stem cells , biopsies) are cultured in a growth medium to multiply and grow (they are not organized in tissues yet).


The scaffold ( a biomaterial) e.g:Hydrogel

"The skeleton"

Hydrogel provides structure and its purpose is to keep the cells together in place.Hydrogel is replaced,in time, with newly deposited extracellular matrix (ECM) and the cells form stronger bonds.


The Bioprinter

A printer that uses cells and hydrogel(biomaterial) as ink.

So what have we done so far?

Tissues actually implanted in patients are mostly flat or simple structures with a lumen.

The procedures are still experimental and very costly.
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An Inkjet Made My Bladder!

What about the heart,the kidneys?

More complex organ tissues like the heart, lungs, and liver tissue have been successfully created in the lab,but they are a long way from being fully reproducible and ready to implant into a patient.


However,that is not the end because they can be used for other purpose (testing of drug toxicity,observing the evolution of induced cancers etc.) Actually ,ORGANOVO ,a company that deals with bioprinting ,has created a liver that can't be used for human transplant so the company offered the opportunity for doctors to acquire custom made livers for their clinical trials.

A batch of exVive3D three-dimensional liver models (Photo: Organovo)

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Looking into the future.

The world of bioprinting is vast and the possibilities are endless.When we search long enough we see that science has great plans and ideas for everything we might think of.There are many ideas and techniques concerning organ 3D printing that are tried in research centers all over the world .


For example other scientists think they can bypass the artificial scaffolds by using living cells' tendencies to self-organize (similar to how cells organize during embryonic development). That avoids the challenge of choosing the scaffold material(the material), but leaves the structure of living cells in a delicate position without the supporting scaffold.


In my opinion,bioprinting and regenerative medicine could become the face of medicine in the future.Many young scientists are interested in this field and it has many practical uses(transplant of organs,testing new drugs and surgical procedures,treating severe burns etc. ), but it can't be denied that this area of medicine is just starting.


There are some disadvantages to these procedures concerning ethics,costs etc.What do you think will be the greatest obstacle this area of medicine will have to confront in the future? What ethical problems may arise?


I'm looking forward to your answers !

Printing a human kidney - Anthony Atala