What is 3D bioprinting – history
3D Bioprinting is a form of additive manufacturing that uses cells and other biocompatible materials as “inks”, also know as bioinks, to print living structures layer- by layer which mimic the behavior of natural living systems. This is where the idea to Brinter’s slogan “printing life one layer at a time” came from.
The invention of 3D printing dates back to 1960’s but earliest record of 3D printing through the additive process was the Japanese inventor Hideo Kodama in 1981. He created a product that used ultraviolet lights to harden polymers and create solid objects. This was an important moment in our way to stereolithography, or SLA.
The actual birth time of the 3D technology is commonly held to be the year 1986, when Charles Hull invented and patented a stereolithographic manufacturing device capable of manufacturing three dimensional objects. He wanted to be able to create smaller versions of objects so they could be tested before spending time and money on creating the actual product. We at Brinter, and other 3D printing specialists often call this process “rapid prototyping”.
Why is bioprinting important?
3D printing development in the past 30 years has lead to its use in many applications, particularly in medicine and health care. One of 3D printing’s most exciting areas is computer assisted 3D Bioprinting of living cells and support structures by applying materials in a predetermined form and structure.
This revolutionary method has made it possible to create living tissue to substitute for a patient’s damaged tissue, skin for example. Another revolution is ongoing in the pharmaceutical development, where 3D Bioprinting provides a means testing drugs at lower cost, with better biological relevance to humans than animal testing, and much faster. One recent example of 3D Bioprinting’s advantages in drug development is using three dimensional cell and tissue models that closer mimic the behavior of natural living systems, to find more specific and effective drugs for battling aggressive brain tumors.
As bioprinting evolves, it will become possible to use a patient’s own cells to 3D print bone grafts and skin, organ patches, and even full replacement organs. In medicine there is a chronic lack of donated organs, in the US alone over 120,000 people are on waiting list. 3D Bioprinting is likely to succeed in printing organs due to the fact that it is able to deposit very small amounts of material in a specific location precisely and reliably.
We at Brinter often get questions like “how soon can you print me a kidney?” While the future looks very promising, there is still much work to be done to further develop the support structure materials, improving cell viability, and the precision of the process, before we are able to print an entire organ. These efforts are worthwhile as personalized and regenerative medicine continue to grow in importance, and 3D bioprinting will give doctors and researchers the tools to better target treatments and improve patient outcomes, e.g. cancer survival rates.