All About 3D Bioprinting

3D Bioprinting


Did you know that it is now possible to print body organs using living cells? Yes, it’s happening. It’s called bioprinting and it uses a 3D printing machine. The healthcare industry is now taking advantage of 3D printing, which is a revolutionary technology that can produce almost anything. Researches and experiments in this industry are taking place and are progressing fast. Limbs, skin, and body organs can now be printed from a machine.

How it Works

Researchers and scientists use a CT scan or MRI to create 3D models or prototype for printing. These bioprinters come in many types. The first 3D bioprinter used commercially is the NovoGen MMX, made by Organovo.  It features two robotic printing heads, where one puts in the human cells while the other head places the support, which is usually a hydrogel or scaffold.

Another type of bioprinter is the six-axis printer, which uses a robot printer. Unlike traditional 3D printers that build a tissue from scratch, is capable of building multiple parts of a heart tissue and it could move the parts around accordingly. The six-axis 3D bioprinter can print layers. It is also capable of coming back and then start printing another layer on the heart’s exterior. Valves have their own spot, and then a robot could take the valves in and place them in the parts of the heart.

Some 3D bioprinters are inkjet-inspired that can use multiple types of cells and components for printing. Earlier forms of 3D bioprinters place human cells in actual ink cartridges. With a customized program, the printers would then place the cells together in a certain order. Today, it is possible to print skin cells directly on a wound by placing the cells in an ink cartridge.

Cells as “ink”

Once the company chooses a tissue design it will then make the “bio-ink” from the cells. The cells are layered until the tissue is complete. In between are water-based layers, which is hydrogel. The hydrogel can also fill in tiny spaces in the tissue. It also used as support to the printed tissue. Another material that is used to put cells together is collagen. This layer-by-layer process is the same as the tradition 3D printing approach. While traditional 3D printers produce products from the ground up, bioprinters use hydrogel or collagen to fuse cells together, creating a tissue.

Stem cells in bioprinting

Another option for bioprinting bones and different organs is using stem cells, as these cells can easily grow into tissues. Researchers and scientists have been experimenting in making bone replacements that are covered with stem cells. Overtime, these stem cells will develop into tissues. Development of stem cell repair is also another focus of the medical field, which is used for complex tissues such as the tissues that make up the liver, the heart, and other vital organs. Using stem cells in building vital body organs may be difficult, but with 3D bioprinting, it may be possible.


Adam W. Feinberg and Jordan S. Miller, Guest Editors, “3D bioprinting of organs,” MRS Bulletin, Volume 42, August 2017

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