Bio Printing is a field of 3d printing which deals with printing of live tissues of living organisms, it's the most exciting fields of 3d printing and one that has a great potential to transform the face of healthcare treatment that we get today. Doctors, and medical researchers from around the globe are trying to make the break through which would let them make living tissues in a controlled environment which can be used to make complex body organs like liver, Kidneys, and Tissues that can be used for cosmetic surgeries.
If and when this breakthrough happens it would be a boon for people with failed body organs and for people who need cosmetic surgeries post burn injuries and birth disorders. Plastic surgeons at Morriston Hospital in Wales are surely running in the race to be the first to develop a methods for 3D bioprinting cartilage-based body parts, which could be used to restructure noses and ears, using the patients’ own cells. We have got reports that they could be one of the first to take these bio printed tissues to clinical testing and we could see them being used within 3 to 4 years. It is said that this team has been working towards this breakthrough since 2012 using a self made 3D Bio Printer which was made with the help of Welsh centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery department.
3Dbioprinting is a printer is optimized to be able to print skin tissue, heart tissue, and blood vessels among other basic tissues that could be suitable for surgical therapy and transplantation.
These Bio-printers, print using the cultured cell samples which has been extracted from the patient. These cells are then printed in a suitable pattern and bound with a jelly like support structure. Once the printer prints the specific body part it is put in an incubator with a flow of nutrients to continue growing until they are strong and stable enough to be implanted into the patient. It is said that the surgeons at the Morriston Hospital have already succeeded in 3D bioprinting small pellets of living cartilage tissue that are capable of surviving the 3D printing process, and they have developed a jelly-like support structure that is compatible with the human cells.
The next step and probably the most diffult one would be to blend the jelly and the cartilage cells, and 3D print them into the required body-part shapes. Once this is done what remains it to print in the particular shape of the persons body part which can be handled with digitally reconstucting the body part and the rest can be done by the printer.
Professor Iain Whitaker, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Morriston spoke to us about the latest developments on Bio Printing and said "We're trying to print biological structures using human cells, and provide the right environment and the right timing so it can grow into tissue that we can eventually put into a human. It would be to reconstruct lost body parts such as part of the nose or the ear and ultimately large body parts including bone, muscle and vessels. “We already have proof of concept that human cells can survive within the printable structures we've made so far, and will survive the printing process. We're currently working on growing up large numbers of cells in order to print larger constructs, and undertake a number of tests to ensure it will be stable enough to be used to implant into a patient."
We can expect the clinical testing to beging within a few years where these 3d printed tissues would be used on Animals go through an ethics process, if these test are successful these tissues would have to be tested on human subjects before being commercially sold. This new form of 3D Printing could allow surgeons to grow missing body parts of patients within two months without the need of skin grafting. Wouldn't that usher a new era for the healthcare sector as a whole ?