The medical industry has only scratched the surface when it comes to 3D printing applications.
Now, bioengineers are looking at the future, and in a special issue of Trends in Biotechnology, researchers came up with five ways that 3D printing might improve and quite possibly extend our lives.
1. Made-to-Order Organs-on-a-Chip
Organs-on-a-chip are 3D microengineered systems that mimic human tissue. Researchers have already grown tissue on chips using human stem cells, but 3D printing could reduce the labor and costs necessary to build, seed, and meet the demand for chips.
2. Skin Manufacturing
Printed skin has already been made by placing cells on a collagen gel, but skin bioprinting, or manufacturing, is on the horizon. Researchers are now considering the designs that are necessary to help patients, especially those with burns or chronic wounds.
3. Facial Reconstruction
Bone, cartilage and muscle have already been printed in a lab, but constructing more complex designs that can be implanted in patients is still in development. Craniofascial reconstruction, for people who have cancer or facial injuries, is an obvious candidate. That’s right rebuilding faces. But we’re close, as we’re already using 3D-printed scaffolds for facial reconstruction.
4. Multi-Organ Drug Screens
Creating man-made organs, or “organoids,” to evaluate how new drugs would interact with the organs.
5. Plug-in Blood Vessels
Finally, we have 3D blood vessel networks within bioengineered tissues, which are particularly important, because it not only means keeping the tissue alive as its being printed, but also making sure it survives after it’s inside you.
This is IEN Now with David Mantey.