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Printing Isn’t Just for Books

By: , Posted on: June 22, 2017

A 3D bioprinted child’s ear. Image credit: Thomas, D. J.

Sometimes when things go wrong with a part of the body the only option is to replace it. This could be anything from a section of damaged skin to a kidney. At the moment, donor tissues or organs are needed to replace the originals, but a global shortage of replacement organic material limits this approach. So not everyone who would benefit from transplant surgery is able to do so.

To counteract the shortage, scientists are developing a solution called ‘biofabrication’, where tissues and organs are manufactured directly from raw materials, such as living cells, molecules, extracellular matrices and biomaterials.

Biofabrication relies on an emerging technique called ‘3D bioprinting’. This process starts with an architectural design based on the composition of the tissue to be created. This design is then fed into a bioprinter that gradually deposits thin layers of cells, nutrients and matrix components to build up and create tissues. The matrix components are required to support and protect cells as the tissue is constructed vertically, and to fill empty spaces within the tissue.

Daniel Thomas of the College of Engineering at Swansea University, UK, has summarised some of the main issues concerning using 3D bioprinting for use in reconstructive surgery in an editorial for the Elsevier Journal Bioprinting. “Advances in 3D-bioprinting technology as a method for biofabricating living tissue structures could one day change the face of reconstructive surgery,” he says. “Over the next 20 years, this technology could become the foundation for a quantum leap forward in treatment.”

Currently, 3D bioprinting is still at the experimental stage. It is primarily used in research rather than application. For now, it is only capable of producing simple homogeneous tissues–tissues made up of one type of cell. However, it has the potential to fabricate heterogeneous tissues–tissues made up of different types of cell, printed simultaneously.

In the future, 3D bioprinting could become so widely used that people having to wait for the right donor to come along will be a thing of the past.

Article details:

Read Article free online until 25th May 2018

Thomas, D. J., “3-D bioprinting transplantable tissue structures: A perspective for future reconstructive surgical transplantation,” Bioprinting (2016)

3d bioprinting

  3D Bioprinting

  • Describes all aspects of the bioprinting process, from bioink processing through design for bioprinting, bioprinting techniques, bioprinter technologies, organ printing, applications, and future trends
  • Provides a detailed description of each bioprinting technique with an in-depth understanding of its process modeling, underlying physics and characteristics, suitable bioink and cell types printed, and major accomplishments achieved thus far
  • Explains organ printing technology in detail with a step-by-step roadmap for the 3D bioprinting of organs from isolating stem cells to the post-transplantation of organs
  • Presents tactics that can be used to select the appropriate process for a given application, such as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, transplantation, clinics, or pharmaceutics

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Materials Science

The highly interdisciplinary field of materials science examines elements of applied physics and chemistry, as well as chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. Nanoscience and nanotechnology in particular have yielded major innovations in this area, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes. Elsevier’s authoritative content in this area ranges from undergraduate textbooks to multi-volume reference works investigating the relationships between the structure of materials and their properties. Our journals (including Materials Today), books, and eBooks help researchers stay abreast of developments in this swiftly advancing field, coving major sub-disciplines like energy and power; metals and alloys; ceramics; composite materials; polymer science and biomaterials; interdisciplinary materials science; and structural materials.