Recently, we have seen a new technology materialize that is known as “bioprinting”. For those people who have wondered what 3D printing can be used for, here’s about as good an example as you find.
Bioprinting is a new process that employs 3D printers to create three-dimensional objects made from biological materials. And these materials can formulate almost anything by using a very precise layer-by-layer positioning. The overall goal is to duplicate tissue and material that is functional – like body organs, which are then ready to be installed into live humans. This is what 3D printers can do.
As we follow these fascinating 3D printing technologies through the rigors that are associated with health care, we see some familiar roadblocks that are hindering the process. The biggest of these obstacles are the regulatory factors involved. This is why we are not utilizing these artificial organs as of yet.
Since these 3D-printed organs are new to the field of healthcare, authorities have not determined how to regulate these bioprinting processes and their finished products. This has actually proven to be a huge bottleneck for the bioprinting production operations as the printers can crank out far more products than can be approved for use.
Going from 3D Printers to Bioprinting
We know that bioprinting has been derived from the field of 3D printing. In general terms, 3D printing encompasses those technologies that join together material through a layering process that uses a digital model as a blueprint. When it was first used, it had very limited applications, but as with many things these days, this technology has grown and now has uses in almost every field. One example is that the US Air Force uses it to create airplane parts.
In the field of medicine, medical researchers employ 3D printers for many purposes. It is used to create replicas of human body parts. This tech is used in both reconstructive as well as plastic surgeries, and implants are actually customized for a specific patient. This was unheard of just a few years ago. The potential here is enormous. Imagine how people today have been waiting for an organ donor for months and months. Perhaps in the near future, they will only have to wait for 3D printers to make an organ for them.
However, bioprinting can offer even more to the field of healthcare. Thanks to recent developments, these high-tech printers can create a wider variety of products that range from human tissue to biological components and even vaccines.
Present State of Bioprinting
Medical scientists still have a ways to go in creating 3D-printed organs that is ready to use in actual humans. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, it is quite challenging to introduce a printed structure into living bodies that use real blood and lymph.
However, there has been lots of success in the 3D printing of nonvascularized tissue such as some cartilages. In addition, there has also been a success in printing out metal-ceramic objects that are used to support the tissue of bones. And there have been quite a few encouraging animal studies that have successfully used blood vessels, cardiac tissue, and skin. This is a strong indicator that bioprinting scientists are getting closer and closer to transplanting artificial organs.