By: Joanna Carbajal
Bioprinting has received a lot of attention due to the mind blowing innovations. Can you really 3D print a heart?
While most bioprinting is in the research stage, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio used additive manufacturing to print a heart for Ethan, a boy with a congenital heart defect called heterotaxy syndrome. While they didn’t put a 3D printed heart in his body, they used the replica made of a flexible resin to help the doctors think about the correct way to proceed with the surgery. They were able to physically hold the heart in their hands. They could cut it open to see what was wrong with Ethan and know what to expect. Such surgery saved his life and has allowed him to do normal day-to-day activities - something he could not do before.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo 3D printed a liver. The 3D printed liver lasted over 7 weeks maintaining drug metabolizing functions and was able to secrete bile acid. After 11 weeks, the liver was able to regulate the production of glucose when given insulin. As technology advances, 3D printed livers will help research the effects of drugs in the liver and determine the causes of liver diseases.
There has been many other bioprinting advances. For example, Organovo uses bioprinting to create human tissues that imitate the native tissues’ form and function. Scientists at the Sichuan University 3D printed blood vessels, using stem cell-based organic material, and embedded them into monkeys. There was no organ rejection from the monkeys. Additive manufacturing has also made skulls, ears and even faces.
Do you frequently forget to take your supplements? MultiplyLabs has developed a solution - one pill per day that is unique to your health and diet. They created the first personalized supplement using additive manufacturing. They modify the structure of the capsule to customize the timed release of the supplements in your body. A normal capsule is a solid piece. MultiplyLabs is modifying the layer height and thickness of every direction of the pill.
Bioprinting continues to develop, but there are challenges including bio-ink sticking to itself to hold the desired printed gel structure. A popular bioprinting material is hydrogel, which is a gel in which the swelling agent is water and the network is polymer based. Researchers are currently experimenting to find ways to use additive manufacturing for life changing processes. The future seems optimistic for bioprinting. Instead of testing cosmetics on animals, we will be able to 3D print skin. A 3D printed liver so that pharmaceutical companies can test their drugs. People that suffer burns will be able to have 3D printed skin. If someone is in need of an organ, we will be able to have 3D printed organ transplants.