Scientists are developing cells, skin tissues, cell cultures and even blood vessels in laboratories from many years. Duplicating and developing cells in Petri dishes is not really a new thing. But, 3D printing introduced a new era in producing completely new artificial organ.
3D printing is one of the compelling and dynamic innovations which have its wide uses in engineering, medicine, and education. Its recent developments allowed 3D printing of biological materials such as cells which further led to the development of tissues and organs.
In 3D Bioprinting, cell patterns are created in a limited space with 3D printing technologies. The cells thus produced are identical to human cells in functioning. These are printed using devices called bio-printers. Bio-Ink, a biological material, is deposited in thin layers to print cells, tissue-like structures, and even complex organs. It also includes scaffolds printing which can aid in regeneration of ligaments and joints.
3D printing for biological components involves so many complexities when compared to non-biological 3D printing. The selection of material, replicating cells, tissues, and organs as identical to respective human parts are indeed challenging. These tissues and organs further will be used for transplants.
3D Bioprinting Process
This process has 3 steps:
- Pre-Bioprinting: In this process, a model of the required biological part is created by obtaining the biopsy of the required organ. CT and MRI are generally used for bioprinting. Here the2D image is created for layer by layer printing. Then, some cells are separated and multiplied and are mixed with special liquid materials which will keep them alive. This is called as Bio-Ink.
- Bioprinting: Here, Bio-Inks are positioned in a printer to deposit layers according to patient’s medical reports. This bio printed material will be matured in the incubator.
- Post-Bioprinting: Here a firm structure will be formed for the taken biological material. Recent development in bioreactor technologies have permitted the fast maturation and vascularisation of tissues and gave the ability to succeed transplants.
Bioreactors can provide good nutrient transport and also can change the pressure of the liquid flowing through cells. Type of bioreactor varies with types of tissues.
Stem cells in bioprinting may be a decent option to develop bones and organs, as they can develop tissue easily.
Vascularisation – A big hurdle
The big obstacle in 3D Bioprinting is Vascularization. Because it is a complex system with arteries, veins and capillaries which are capable of delivering nutrients, removing waste. It is really a great challenge to develop such a system. There is a chance of rejection of these organs and cells by the body after implant.
Pros and Cons of 3D bioprinting
- Manufacturing organs would be precise and faster
- Easy for scientists
- Less liable to inaccuracy
- Reduce trafficking of organs
- Reduce waiting for donors
- Organs may not be rejected by the body after transplantation.
- Reduce cosmetic and drug testing on animals
- Well-developed cells and tissues may enhance their functioning.
- Maybe very expensive
- Many Ethical concerns
- Large amounts of energy consumption
- Release of unwanted chemicals into the air
The biotech industry is ready to monetize 3D printing. Several tissues, multi-layered skin, tracheal splints, bones are already generated and transplanted. Now research is going on to develop artificial organs with same functionality and sensitivity as of human organs. It will reduce organ trafficking and wait for donors in case of transplants. 3D-printedmodels can be used for drug testing and discovery.