Bioprinting is taking the world of science and technology by storm – a bit. And it should. This offshoot of 3D printing is poised to give medical researchers and scientists the magical wand they have always desired. Believe it or not, bioprinting allows medical honchos to build an organ, layer on a layer using state-of-the-art scanners and printers. For long, this ability had been reserved for product prototyping, model building, and auto design.
The excitement is real. With a raft of possibilities, 3D bioprinting is bound to open even greater leaps for scientists and medical researchers alike. But how does 3D bioprinting work?
Let’s delve right into it.
Because no one has come up with an impeccable bioprinting process, every lab uses different prototypes. However, a typical bioprinting follows a series of steps. Each is unique and vary from one group to another.
A standard CT, MRI scan or any sensible 3D imaging is employed to give exact dimensions of the tissue in question. The nitty gritty of the imaging process relies heavily on the accuracy of the imager. On the ideal, the tissues should be a perfect fit, with a surgeon having to do little or no adjustments.
Generate a Blueprint
A blueprint computer file is generated from the image using AutoCAD software. It contains a highly detailed layer by layer instruction. The file may need a little tweak before printing to avoid transfer of defects.
It’s Time to Prepare the “Ink.”
Bioprinting “ink” is a combination of living cells – mostly patient’s own – and compatible base like collagen. This cell-friendly suspension offers the cells a scaffolding to grow on. The cells collected are typically purpose-specific. Researchers can also incorporate environmental cues that make the cells do certain things.
The 3D printer renders a deposit of the “ink” layer by layer, with each layer 0.5mm or thinner in thickness. But, there is a plethora of nozzles that can deliver larger or smaller deposits depending on the kind of tissue in question. Much akin to gel toothpaste, the mixture emerge from the nozzles as a highly viscous liquid.
Each layer begins as a viscous liquid but has to solidify to hold its shape, as more layers are deposited. Crosslinking is the term given to this process of blending and consolidation. UV light works like a charm, but some labs use certain chemicals or heat. Needless to say, UV light is recommended.