What is Bioprinting?

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It would a dream come true for many people awaiting donor organs, if a lost organ can be replaced completely or a scar on a pretty face can be eliminated with a fresh layer of tissues? No more waiting lists for organs and it would be as easy as putting an order for the new organ. Seems like a science fiction movie, but you will be surprised to know that, there is a new emerging technology, called bioprinting. Bioprinting is a new emerging technology, that aims at achieving to develop new tissues and eventually organs. It is in the research phase as with any technology that takes time to completely develop. Currently, there is a lot of research being done on bioprinters. In bioprinting, devices are printed by feeding biological materials as deposits. With an ink jet printer instead of ink, cells are printed or deposited on a surface layer by layer. And in this way a full organ can be produced. Bioprinting is a huge shift from the traditional approaches adopted so far in tissue engineering. It does not aim at seeding cells on a biodegradable scaffold. It aims at organizing the elements of the tissue during the fabrication step individually through the process of depositing layers of biologically important components.



What is the basic principle of Bioprinting?

Bioprinting helps to replicate human organs. The long term goal is to create a whole organ. However, this technology is in its rudimentary stage. As the system still lacks fine-tuning, it is not yet well-accepted in the mainstream medical field. With a regular ink-jet printer a cartridge is moved back and forth on a petri dish. A liquid is kept in the petri dish and the cartridges have cells inside them instead of ink. Inside, it has a crosslinker for binding. The crosslinker turns the liquid into a gel like substance over which the cells are deposited. This process is repeated with addition of liquid and more layers of cells. In this way, cells are structured for the formation of an organ. Newly developed bioprinters work at lower speed and can extrude cells individually from a micropipette. 



Who are the pioneers in Bioprinting?

There are a few companies that are on the forefront of this new emerging technology which though currently are in their infant stage, are working to be able to make new tissues, organs and new implants by taking the cells of a personand bioprinting them. Some of these companies are:

Makoto Nakamura : A Japanese scientist realized the size of inkdroplets in a inkjetprinter and human cells were of the same size. He created using the concept to create biotubing which were similar to blood vessels.

Organovo : This company was formed by professor Gabor Forgacs and his team who were successful in creating cardiac tissue from chicken cells. Organovo was working with Invetech which resulted in the commercial biprinter NovoGenMMX. This bioprinter can generate tissues from any type of cell source which generates tissue on demand thus being able to solve the shortage of human organs. Organovo was the recipient of the "Deal maker award for the year 2011"

Envisionic Bioplotter: Another pioneer in this field is Envisionic bioplotter which like Organovo prints tissue spheroids and scaffold materials such as fibrin and collagen hydrogels. This printer albeit unlike NovoGenMMX can also print a variety of biomaterials such as biodegradable polymers that can help in supporting artificial organs.

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Lab at Columbia University : Are working on bioprinting dental implants and You do not have access to view this node implants.



What was the quality of the first Bioprinter?

The first bioprinter deposited 100 picoliters at the rate of ten thousand per second. The volume of a cell was around 3 picoliters. The best inkjet printers was used that deposited drops ranging from 1to 5 picoliters in volume at a rate of tens of thousands per second.



What is Gabor Forgacs Bioprinter?

At the University of Missouri in Columbia, renowned biophysicist Gabor Forgacs developed a bioprinter. Complex 3D structures were aimed by using biopaper and bioink. But it did not happen at cellular resolution. The bioprinter operated at 10 kHz. The 100 picoliter printer was able to produce 60 microliters of tissue in one minute. So we can say that 86 milliliters of tissue could be produced in a day. 



What was the drawback of Gabor Forgacs Bioprinter?

Gabor Forgacs Bioprinter had a very low resolution. Organic tissues require a higher degree of precision. Forgacs adopted micropipette approach with single-celled resolution to create functional, living tissue that behaved identical to the original organ. He was successful in creating living tissues which were functional and showed similar behavior as the originating organ. He tried replicating chicken heart cells. The chicken heart cells were placed on a dish and it started beating synchronously just like the chicken heart.  However, at this moment, this rudimentary bioprinter cannot prints out full human organs. This is because as more layers of cells are deposited the ones that are lying below them are deprived of nutrition. As a result of that the early cell layers die. So at the moment only 2 inches thick cell layers can be created by bioprinting.

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