This week I’ll be jumping back into some real “science,” and knowledge dropping in the prototyping realm. But in all seriousness, bioprinting technology has world-changing implications at stake. Bioprinting can bring regenerative medicine to uncharted heights and possibilities. Organ transplants utilizing bioprinting, in particular, can have a profound impact on human life expectancy and longevity.
The Beginnings of Bioprinting
Let’s start from the beginning. The initial bioprinting concept was put forth around 1988¹. The nameless researcher/scientist was utilizing a modified HP Inkjet printer with a cell depositing tech that would later be dubbed, “Cytoscribing”¹. Almost a decade would pass without significant progress until a group of scientists at the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine finally accomplished an artificial organ transplant in 1999². The team led by Dr. Anthony Atala successfully 3D printed a bladder “scaffold” structure which was then seeded with the patients’ own organ cells¹. The Wake Forest team was able to reach yet another milestone when they created a fully functioning, miniature kidney in 2002¹. Less than a year later, in 2003, a doctor named Thomas Boland from Clemson University patented an inkjet-style printing technology much like the original¹. The inkjet-based bioprinting technology led to extensive research and development of biomaterials, scaffolding techniques, cell-matrix substrates, etc.
Cellink Bio 3D Bioprinter During Media Extrusion
The Last Decade of Bioprinting
Eventually, live cells were utilized without scaffolding after a company named Organovo, filed a patent application for their proprietary “Multilayered Vascular Tubes” technology in 2010³. The Intellectual Property Office of the UK did not grant the patent until 2012³. Coincidentally enough, Organovo had already commercialized their bioprinter in 2009¹ without an approved patent. Even though Organovo was the first to commercialize a 3D bioprinter, Cellink was the first to bring the commercialization to an affordable, mass-production scale. In 2015, Cellink launched their “hobbyist” level 3D bioprinter, “Inkredible 3D”². Prior to the release of their game-changing 3D printer, Cellink unveiled the first, standardized, and universal “bio-ink” which is derived from seaweed non-cellulose alginate². Fast forward to 2019, a group of researchers in Israel was able to 3D print a rabbit-sized, fully functioning heart with the ability to transport blood². Also in 2019, another group of researchers in Warsaw, Poland, were able to produce a functioning prototype of a human pancreas².
Nowadays, there are 4 major types/techniques of 3D bioprinting; Sacrificial Writing into Functional Tissue (SWIFT), Stereolithographic Bioprinting (SLB), Drop-Based Bioprinting (Inkjet), and Extrusion Bioprinting. These principal technologies have come to light over the past three decades in which they share roots from their traditional 3D printing ancestors. With past innovation and current R&D, the future of 3D bioprinting is blinding.
1 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_printing
2 – https://www.asme.org/topics-resources/content/infographic-the-history-of-3d-printing
3 – https://ir.organovo.com/news-releases/news-release-details/organovo-announces-two-issued-patents-first-company-patent-and