rapid prototyping

Bioprinting in the News: 'Bioprinters Are Churning Out Living Fixes to Broken Spines' By WIRED

Image courtesy of www.wired.com

Image courtesy of www.wired.com

Bioprinters are an essential piece of lab equipment for any scientist, researcher, or doctor that wants to study cells in a relevant way. This is because cells in 3D behave differently than their counterparts studied in a 2D environment; they express more accurate biomarkers and perform more physiologically relevant actions. Bioprinters accelerate the pace of research and allow scientists to find innovative solutions to real world problems.

This awesome article by WIRED profiles a team at UC San Diego that has bioprinted a section of spinal cord that can be custom-fit into a patient’s injury.

It’s awesome to see how bioprinting allows researchers to reliably study the body outside the body. Together, we can change the way we study and treat illness!

Read the full article here.

Using 3D Bioprinting to Create Bone

Imagine being able to print bone. Things like jawbone surgery, healing fractures, and treating bone diseases would be revolutionized. Well, a future in which doctors and researchers regularly bioprint bone may not be so far off.

3d bioprinting bone jaw skull.jpg

In 2013, researchers at the University of Nottingham in England devised a method to create custom fitted bone replacements using the power of stem cells and bioprinting. The idea is fairly simple: researchers used a 3D bioprinter to create a biochemical scaffold in the shape of their desired bone, and then planted stem cells onto it. These stem cells, through the influence of specific chemical growth factors, were guided into becoming bone. Eventually, as the cells grew and proliferated, the scaffold was populated with bone cells.

This printed product could then be implanted into a patient. Upon implantation, the scaffold—made from biocompatible alginate and polylactic acid—would dissolve, leaving only the new bone within about 3 months.

Clearly, there are a lot of advantages to this approach. For starters, bone replacements can be made to fit the patient exactly. This also reduces the need for bone donors. And lastly, it completely circumvents the problem of host rejection, since the scaffold is ideally seeded with the patient’s own stem cells. 

As always here at Allevi, we’re looking for the cutting edge applications of 3D bioprinting. This research was done back in 2013, and who knows what sort of developments we’ll encounter this year, in 2015!

3D Printed Heart Saves the Life of a Newborn

Here’s some BIG, heartwarming news in the world of 3D bioprinting and medical science—literally heartwarming because through the use of a 3D printed heart, doctors were able to save the life of a newborn with a congenital heart defect.

3d printed heart.jpg

The surgery took place at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, where doctors used MRI data to 3D-print a replica of the child’s heart. This allowed them to visualize the unusually organized chambers and channels. In turn, surgeons had a better guide and tactile understanding of the corrective procedures they needed to perform. 

Usually, something like this would require surgeons to look directly at the heart via surgery. However, using MRI and 3D modeling instead can help surgeons avoid certain invasive procedures—a promising application of 3D-bioprinting technology.

At the same time, this is just one of many ways in which 3D-bioprinting is driving parts of modern medical science. Who knows, maybe in the near future, we’ll see 3D printed heart tissue that can be directly implanted. 

3D Printing Shatters Paradigms from Manufacturing to the Life Sciences

Technological progress is marked by highly disruptive technologies - technologies that people don’t think they need when a new market comes up, but which fundamentally change the way we live our lives.

We saw it with personal computers in the late 70s and early 80s. We saw it again with smartphones in the last decade. And we’re seeing it right now with 3D printing of plastics.

Major industries are already pulling 3D plastic printing closer to the mainstream. The automobile industry is 3D printing parts and the start-up, Urbee, is making the push towards almost entirely 3D printed cars! The defense industry is incorporating 3D printing into weapons systems and training devices to lower manufacturing costs. Boeing is 3D printing over 300 parts for its planes.

boeing 3d printed plane parts

Plastic 3D printing has allowed rapid prototyping to take on a whole new meaning. Scale mock-ups can be created with incredible precision and reproducibility without needing to retool large-scale manufacturing operations. It’s a potential game-changer in terms of cutting shipping and storage costs - something that could dramatically offset the higher per unit cost of manufacturing with 3D printing.

So now we come back to the life sciences. Can we expect a similar trajectory for 3D bioprinting as we’ve seen for 3D plastic printing? Maybe. We definitely believe it can!

 A complex 3D construct for cartilage, for example, with interconnected pores and multiple different types of layers would normally take days to make piece by piece. A bioprinter could, perhaps, do it all in a fraction of that time.

A high school biology lesson on diffusion across a membrane takes on a whole new meaning as students observe a colored dye flowing through a 3D gel with an embedded membrane structure which they made as opposed to looking at a 2D picture in a book.

Trying to decide how a liver cell behaves in the body’s 3D microenvironment now becomes a more manageable task because you can actually print a whole liver sub-unit, label different structures radioactively or with dyes and follow everything in 3D.

To understand our highly complex bodies, we’ve looked at simple organisms such as a planarian to understand how development works. Let’s add a powerful tool to combine that critical understanding of development with the ability to recreate it in an environment that mimics nature much more closely than ever before. Let’s take the lessons we have learned about functionality and easy access from personal computers, smartphones, and plastic 3D printing and apply them to tackle some of the biggest problems we face as a species - those of our health and fitness.