The history of 3D Bioprinting is brief, for it is a new development that is still being tested for safety and is not yet commercially utilized. However, much of the research that contributed to the current early-stage development of 3D bioprinting is based off of tissue engineering research that has been taking place for the last forty years. Even before that, the study of cells and tissues stemmed from Anton Van Leeuwenhoek’s early microbiology studies on cells dating all the way back to the early 18th century.
In 2004, Organovo, one of the largest research groups dedicated to studying Bioengineering discussed the formation of their company around Forgacs organ printing technology. The Forgacs lab in Missouri had been doing extensive lab work over the last several years on the idea of printing cells to form organs. The first research patent on a platform entitled Self-Assembling Cell-Aggregates and Methods of Making the Same was filed in late 2005. Over the next few years, the company changed hands many times until a major breakthrough in 2010: Organovo described their work on a fully cellular blood vessel, demonstrating the ability to create novel tissues in 3D using only primary human cells. They soon partnered with Methuselah Foundation on Funding of Bioprinting Research at Research Institutions and were able to close a 46.6 million dollar research grant that allowed them to begin presenting prototype models of a human liver that was printed in 3D.
3D bioprinting is a groundbreaking technique that involves a precise procedure. The robotic arm of the bioprinter is first programmed to create a mold based on the organ to be printed. A matchbox-size triangulation sensor proceeds to determine the position of the first syringe to begin the printing process. The robotic arm of the 3D tissue printer moves the first syringe to fill the mold with living cells. The 3D tissue printer outputs living cells and a dissolvable gel that supports the cells during the printing process. After the printing process is completed, the well plate that contains the newly printed tissue is removed and placed in an incubator. The tissue on the well plate proceeds to fuse into an organ.
3D bioprinting has the potential to revolutionize medicine. Scientists have already begun to 3D print organs such as kidneys and bladders. At this rate, patients in need of an organ donation will no longer have to depend on the unreliability of organ donors; instead they will be able to have a new organ 3D printed. Not only will more patients be able to get an organ donation, but they will also no longer be at risk of an organ rejection because their 3D printed organ will have come from their own cells.
3D Bioprinting undoubtedly has numerous benefits and the capacity to save countless lives, but there are many concerns with this upcoming innovative medical process. Since bioprinting is still new, there is no research on the long term effects of bioprinted materials on humans therefore there is no strong evidence that bioprinted organs is as effective and durable as transplanted organs. How accessible will bioprinted organs be to the public? Like any other medical treatment, bioprinting is expensive. Only those with health insurance and the upper class would be able to afford 3D Bioprinting, therefore exacerbating the gap between the rich and poor. 3D Bioprinting can also revolutionize plastic surgery, making it faster and cheaper. This will change the ideals of society and create “immortal beauty”.
Written by: Emma Anderson, Madison Ojeda, Megan Nquyen