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3D bioprinting is the process of generating spatially-controlled cell patterns using 3D printing technologies, where cell function and viability are preserved within the printed construct.:1 The first patent related to this technology was filed in the United States in 2003 and granted in 2006.:1
Using 3D bioprinting for fabricating biological constructs typically involves dispensing cells onto a biocompatible scaffold using a successive layer-by-layer approach to generate tissue-like three-dimensional structures. Given that every tissue in the body is naturally compartmentalized of different cell types, many technologies for printing these cells vary in their ability to ensure stability and viability of the cells during the manufacturing process. Some of the methods that are used for 3D bioprinting of cells are photolithography, magnetic bioprinting, stereolithography, and direct cell extrusion. When a bioprinted pre-tissue is transferred to an incubator then this cell-based pre-tissue matures into a tissue.
San Diego-based Organovo, an "early-stage regenerative medicine company", was the first company to commercialize 3D bioprinting technology.:1 The company utilizes its NovoGen MMX Bioprinter for 3D bioprinting. The printer is optimized to be able to print skin tissue, heart tissue, and blood vessels among other basic tissues that could be suitable for surgical therapy and transplantation. A research team at Swansea University in the UK is using Bioprinting technology to produce soft tissues and artificial bones for eventual use in reconstructive surgery.
3D-bioprinting attributes to significant advances in the medical field of tissue engineering by allowing for research to be done on innovative materials called biomaterials. Biomaterials are the materials adapted and used for printing three-dimensional objects. Some of the most notable bioengineered substances that are usually stronger than the average bodily materials, including soft tissue and bone. These constituents can act as future substitutes, even improvements, for the original body materials. Alginate, for example, is an anionic polymer with many biomedical implications including feasibility, strong biocompatibility, low toxicity, and stronger structural ability in comparison to some of the body's structural material.
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- Doyle, Ken (15 May 2014). "Bioprinting:From Patches to Parts". Gen. Eng. Biotechnol. News (paper) 34 (10): 1, 34–5. abstract
- US patent 7051654, Boland, Thomas; Wilson, Jr., William Crisp; Xu, Tao, "Ink-jet printing of viable cells", issued 2006-05-30
- Dan Thomas, Engineering Ourselves – The Future Potential Power of 3D-Bioprinting?, engineering.com, March 25, 2014