Bioprinter are a special type of 3D printer. On the basis of computer-controlled tissue engineering, they can produce tissues or bioarrays. In the future it should be possible with their help to produce organs and artificial living beings.
What is a bioprinter?Bioprinters are a special type of 3D printer.
Bioprinters are technical devices for three-dimensional printing of biological tissues and organs by transferring them to living cells. This area of 3D printing is still at an experimental stage and is mainly being investigated in scientific studies in universities. The aim is to create the possibility of producing functional replacement tissue and organs that can be used in medical treatment.
The term used for the bioprinter is called bioprinting. Bioprinting begins with the basic composition of the target tissue or organ. The bioprinter is only used in a laboratory environment. The special 3D printer stores and forms thin layers of cells via a print head as a result. To do this, the head of the bioprinter moves left, right, up or down.
Bioprinters use bio-ink or bio-process logs to build organic materials. These are biopolymers with cells from living beings and hydrogel with up to 90% water. The flow property must be calculated exactly. On the one hand, the mass must be liquid enough so that the cannulas of the syringes do not clog and, on the other hand, it must be sufficiently firm so that the structure of the target is durable.
Other uses for bioprinting include transplants, surgical therapy, tissue engineering, and reconstructive surgery.
Shapes, types & types
At the moment, bioprinters are only used very sporadically in the commercial sector. Since bioprinting is in the development phase, mature types or types of bioprinters are currently not verified. In principle, however, any 3D printer can be used for bioprinting. For this purpose, the PVC powder usually used must be replaced by appropriate cells. Methods are also being tested with which it is possible to develop bioprinters from normal inkjet printers.
The bio-ink must meet high requirements. For example, every substance that is to be used for clinical purposes must meet strict international requirements. Before they can be used in bioprinting, such substances must be subjected to years of testing.
Structure & functionality
The functioning of a bioprinter is very similar to the functional principle of an ordinary 3D printer. Molds are built using an extruder. However, PVC powder is not used, as is the case with conventional 3D printers, but a polymer gel, usually based on alginate.
Current bioprinters, which are occasionally used in practice, produce droplets that each contain between 10,000 and 30,000 individual cells. The organization of these individual cells should come together to form functional tissue structures on the basis of corresponding growth factors.
Bioprinters require temperature control for exact printing. Current bio-printers are spatially very large and can be several meters in width, length and height. The plungers of the syringes are controlled via a computer, which is usually located outside the printer. The basis for this is the digitally available data of a 3D model. The bio-ink is pressed out of up to eight spray nozzles and the intended structure is built up on a platform.
Medical & health benefits
Basically, bioprinters are to be used in three areas in particular: in medicine, the food industry and in synthetic biology. In medicine, the use of bioprinters in the sub-areas of surgical therapy, reconstructive surgery, organ donation and transplants is conceivable and planned.A major advantage is evident, especially with organs from bioprinters: the exact coordination with the body intended for the transplant. In this way, the search for a suitable donor organ that is suitable for the receiving body can be stopped.
In reconstructive surgery, simplification and improvement are expected. Procedures are conceivable here in which cells are taken from the patient from different parts of the body - such as ears, fingers and knees. These cells are propagated in a laboratory. Then biopolymer is added. The bioprinter can theoretically build a transplant from such a suspension. This is used for the patient. The body's own cells then break down the biopolymer over time. The particular advantage could be that the body does not reject the transplant. Furthermore, such a transplant could grow with the body. The reason for this positive property is that the implant is linked to the patient's growth control.
The field of research on the use of bioprinters in medicine continues to grow. At the moment, making grafts from cartilage, like a nose, is very conceivable. The production of body organs is seen more critically. In particular, the number of capillaries required to supply the organs cannot currently be imagined with the required accuracy. Another problem can arise from the fact that in such complex structures as body organs different cells have to be coordinated and communicate with one another in order to be able to fulfill different functions.
Bioprinters can also be used to produce meat in the food industry. According to their own statements, the first companies have already successfully printed such products. These should be tasty and less expensive than slaughter. However, no meat printed by bioprinting is currently available in stores.