Recently I encountered this story from Explaining the Future about developments in bioprinting. Bioprinting involves the use of 3D printing technology to print live cells to potentially build organs or other parts of the body. While still in the research phases, this application of 3D printing is astounding. As Explaining the Future noted, all bioprinters are experimental today. But one day, they could revolutionize medical practice.
Organovo, a company set up by a professor from the University of Missouri, and a company called Invetech, have created one of the first commercial 3D bioprinters–the NovoGen MMX.
To build tissue, this printer is loaded with bioink spheroids that each contain tens of thousands of cells. The printer lays down a single layer of a water-based bio-paper made from collagen, gelatin or other hydrogels, then injects Bioink spheroids into the water-based material. Then, like other 3D printing technology, the device adds more layers to build up the final object.
Noted Explaining the Future, “Nature then takes over and the bioink spheroids slowly fuse together. As this occurs, the biopaper dissolves away or is otherwise removed, thereby leaving a final bioprinted body part or tissue.”
A very interesting aspect of this development is that the cells in the printed build seem to be able to rearrange themselves after printing. This is an amazing observation.
Developments are underway to build tissue for veins and arteries, bone, and even skin, as seen by the device below.