The three-dimensional (3D) medical printing and bioprinting market has exploded in the last decade with the invention of several new printers that can print everything from anatomical models to living cells. Each new machine has contributed in its own way to the success of this industry. However, only a few of them have impacted the field of medicine the way BioBot 1 has done in the recent years.
BioBots, a Philadelphia-based startup, hopes to use 3D printing technology to cure diseases, eliminate organ transplantation wait times, reverse climate change, and promote life on other planets. Their BioBot 1 desktop 3D printer is capable of printing live tissues from human cells. The low-cost machine is making bioprinting technology accessible to everyone from major universities to small research labs and is thereby, helping transform medicine and biology.
The History of BioBiots
The BioBots printer began as a dorm room project for two of its co-founders who were biology and computer science students at the University of Pennsylvania. Their initial prototype won a university competition and a $50,000 grant through the Dreamit Health program. The team began building smaller, cheaper and more efficient printers and is currently targeting biotech and pharma majors that spend millions of dollars on clinical research. The printer may help the companies generate specific cells lines and tissue fragments to test their therapeutics.
Unique Features of the BioBots Printer
The popularity of the BioBots printer is not without a reason. The machine comes with several novel features and a small footprint. It can essentially fit into most bio-safety hoods and allows the researchers to work in a sterile environment with ease. The printer uses standard petri dishes and 96-well plates to simplify the printing process. The user can upload designs, choose biomaterials and eventually print the tissue fragments with minimal effort.
The BioBots 1 printer uses visible blue light to cure biomaterials quickly without damaging the cells. It includes a compressed air pneumatic system with a pressure range of 0 to 10 PSI that accommodates a variety of viscous materials and helps achieve specific start and stop points. The linear rails guarantee 10-micron precision. The printer also has two heated extruder heads to achieve temperatures between room temperature to 120 degrees.
BioBots 1 printer also differs from its rivals in the type of bioink it uses. The support material maintains the structural integrity of the cells during the printing process and prevents their degradation after the printing is complete. The user also opts for a scaffold or a matrix gel prior to adding the cells and printing the final tissue fragments. BioBots offers a large selection of products for its printers including support bioinks, sacrificial bioinks, matrix base reagents, matrix ECM proteins, matrix print enhancers, and curing bioinks. The company has also created a bioink open source allowing researchers to improve the technology further.
Potential Uses of BioBots PrintersAlthough BioBots is currently pitching its product to companies and research institutes involved in drug development, most experts are hopeful that the use of this printer will expand further to benefit patients waiting for organ transplants. Researchers at Drexel University are using the BioBots 1 to print bone tissue while University of Michigan professors are using it to print nerve tissue. Physicians may soon be able to print compatible body parts with lower risk of rejection prior to transplantation surgeries for greater success.
BioBots 1 printer definitely holds a competitive edge due to its small foot print, ease of use, wide selection of bioinks, and lower price. The company is investing millions of dollars on improving the performance of the machine, and if recent developments are an indication, the BioBots is bound to play an important role in diagnoses, treatment and prevention of complex diseases in the near future.