3D Revolution in Regenerative Medicine
Currently, 3D printing technology has become a widespread phenomenon globally, with about 2.2 million 3D printers sold in the year 2021 alone. Colocation potential is projected to reach 21.5 million devices for the year 2030, allowing for widespread access to this rapid prototyping technology. (Moore, 2022).
These advances are being developed in the industrial, jewelry, educational, automotive, dental, artistic, architectural, fashion, and medical fields. It should be noted that, of the latter, it is where the horizon with the greatest potential lies, especially in the field of biomedical engineering. (TRD, SF).
In this sense, so-called biofabrication is an innovative technology in the field of regenerative medicine that allows to print cell structures and tissues through the use of biocompatible materials. Starting in the 1980s, this technology has evolved with a focus on organ and tissue printing, revolutionizing medicine and the lives of millions of people waiting for transplants.
Currently, nearly 100 countries have published papers on the biomedical applications of 3D printing, indicating the widespread interest in this technology. The US and China lead the way, followed by Korea, Liechtenstein and France, which have the most scientific studies and patent registrations. (Hsu, 2023).
The main feature of this technology is the ability to fabricate complex three-dimensional models (organs/tissues) with the use of stem cells and novel biomaterials, which allows for the creation of more complex and functional multicellular networks.
In this role, developers are using a variety of specialized materials: synthetic polymers (polycaprolactone, polylactic acid, hydroxyapatite) and natural polymers (alginate and hyaluronic acid), which are gaining popularity in 3D printing of biocompatible materials . (Hsu, 2023).
There are many companies and countries that sell specialized materials for tissue bioprinting. Among them we can mention:
- Organovo, Elevi, Cellink, Aspect Biosystems (USA)
- EnvisionTEC (Germany)
- Regemat 3D (Spain)
- Exilum Robotics (UK)
- Sifuse Biomedical (Japan)
Another advantage over the traditional way of addressing the need for transplantation is the adaptability of printed organs. This means they can be tailored to meet each patient’s specific needs, increasing the chance of rejection.
Recent Bioprinting Results
In recent years, significant progress has been made in 3D bioprinting of organs. In 2019, American company Biolife4D created a miniature 3D human heart with chambers and ventricles. Although this is a prototype, the goal is to be able to print human heart tissue on a large scale for replacement procedures. (iProp, 2019).
Only a year later, 3D printing of a functional human liver was achieved. This body structure, achieved by Brazilian researchers, was able to survive for several days in the laboratory using human blood cells. It is hypothesized that these tissues would be able to perform all the functions of the liver: production of important proteins, storage of vitamins, and secretion of bile.
According to the 3Dnatives portal (2023), another relevant advance is kidney bioprinting. We know that kidney failure is a disease that affects many people around the world, who do not yet have many treatment options. For this reason, the company Trestle Biotherapeutics managed to develop viable tissue to transplant into patients with end-stage kidney disease. According to the company’s report, this new therapy seeks to give patients relief from dialysis treatment and longer time until transplant. (M, A. 2023)
Challenges in Organ Bioprinting
Human organ bioprinting is a developing field that aims to create functional organs from living cells and biocompatible materials using 3D printing techniques. While there are still many challenges that need to be overcome before it can be widely used in medicine, significant progress has been made in recent years.
The human organ connector manufacturing process is typically performed in several steps, including:
- Getting the Cells: The cells are obtained through biopsy of human tissue, such as skin, bone or cartilage, or through stem cells grown in the laboratory.
- Preparation of organic ink: The basic units are combined with biocompatible materials to make the bio-ink used in 3D printing. It must have the right consistency in order to solidify properly into the desired structure.
- Organ model design: 3D design software is used to create a custom organ model based on the patient’s specific characteristics. The mold is divided into layers so that it can be printed sheet by sheet.
- 3D Print: The printer deposits bio-ink on each cover to create a three-dimensional structure, adjusting itself to deposit the right amount and in the right position.
- Tissue Maturation: Once printed, the organ is placed in a bioreactor that provides the right conditions for the cells to grow and mature. This may include nutrients and oxygen as well as electrical stimulation to help cells integrate and form functional tissues.
- imputation: Once the biological structure is sufficiently developed, it can be implanted into the patient. Challenges at this stage include ensuring that it is functional and does not trigger a negative immune response from the body. (Interpresses, 2018).
Bioprinting Developer Companies
In view of this promising scenario, more and more companies are being formed dedicated to this particular task of bioprinting, many others are modifying their business models in this regard. Below is a list of the most relevant developers today (EOS Medus, SF):
- Organovo (USA)
- Selink (USA)
- Aspect Biosystems (Canada)
- Sifuse Biomedical (Japan)
- Tevedo Biodevices (USA)
- DigiLab (Spain)
- Advanced Solutions Life Sciences (USA)
- Tissue Regeneration Systems (USA)
- NScript (USA)
- EnvisionTEC (Germany)
- Medprin (China)
- N3D (USA)
- Rokit (South Korea)
- Celbrix (Germany)
- Regmat 3D
Bioprinting has advanced significantly in recent years, allowing complex tissues and organs (skin, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, etc.) to be created with unprecedented precision. Although there are still many challenges to be overcome, such as the proper integration of blood vessels and cell function, progress in the field is encouraging.
Although significant progress has been made in 3D bioprinting of organs, there are still technical and ethical challenges that need to be overcome. The greatest need is to improve the vascularity of the printed tissues, which is critical to ensure the viability of the fabricated tissues.
Custom bioprinting capability reduces reliance on human donor organ transplants, potentially revolutionizing medicine and improving the lives of millions of people around the world. As research continues and technologies are refined, these developments are expected to have a growing impact on health care and open up new opportunities for the development of personalized therapies.
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Soo, C. (2023, February 10). Trends and Innovations in 3D Printing in Biomedicine. How. https://www.cas.org/es-es/resources/cas-insights/biotechnology/biomedical-3d-printing
- A. (2023, February 2). Bioprinting Project: 3D Printed Organs and Tissues. 3Dnatives. https://www.3dnatives.com/es/bioimpresion-projects-organs-3d-printed-fabrics-070420202/
iProUP. (2019, September 10). How to 3D print an artificial heart that 100% mimics a human organ. iProUP. https://www.igroup.com/digital-economy/7331-design-a-new-artificial-human-heart-with-3d-impression
Intercompanies. (2018, June 12). Newcastle University 3D printed the first human cornea Intercompanies. https://www.interempresas.net/Fabricacion-aditiva/Articulos/219145-La-Universidad-de-Newcastle-imprimera-en-3D-las-primeras-corneas-humanas.html
EOS Medicines. (Ra). Best Bioprinting Companies. EOS Medicines. https://eosmeds.mx/