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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
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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.:3 Artificial organs such as livers and kidneys made by 3D bioprinting have been shown to lack crucial elements that affect the body such as working blood vessels, tubules for collecting urine, and the growth of billions of cells required for these organs. Without these components the body has no way to get the essential nutrients and oxygen deep within their interiors.:3 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. Typically, the first step used is getting a biopsy of the organ. From this examination, certain cells are isolated and multiplied. These cells are then mixed with a special liquefied material that provides oxygen and other nutrients to keep them alive. Finally, the mixture is placed in a printer cartridge and structured using the patients’ medical scans. :4When a bioprinted pre-tissue is transferred to an incubator 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. Bioprinting technology will eventually be used to create fully functional human organs for transplants and drug research. This will allow for more effective organ transplants and safer more effective drugs.:6
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.:7 Synthetic hydrogels are also commonplace, including PV based gels. The combination of Acid with a UV initiated PV based cross-linker has been evaluated by the Forest Institute of Medicine and determined to be a very biomaterial. Engineers are also exploring other options such as printing micro-channels that can maximize the diffusion of nutrients and oxygen from neighboring tissues :4 In addition, The Defense Threat Reduction Agency aims to print mini organs such as hearts, livers, and lungs as the potential to test new drugs more accurately and perhaps eliminate the need for testing in animals :4
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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
- Harmon K. A Sweet Solution for Replacing Organs. Sci Am 2013 -04-01;308(4):54-55.
- Cooper-White, M. "How 3D Printing Could End The Deadly Shortage Of Donor Organs." 2015. 
- Thomas D. Engineering Ourselves – The Future Potential Power of 3D-Bioprinting? 2015; .
- Crawford M. Creating Valve Tissue Using 3-D Bioprinting 2015;
- Murphy, S. V.; Skardal, A; Atala, A (2013). "Evaluation of hydrogels for bio-printing applications". Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A 101 (1): 272–84. doi:10.1002/jbm.a.34326. PMID 22941807.