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  1. A lot of people have heart problems and there is a long list of those seeking transplant because unlike other parts of the body, tissues of the heart do not repair or regenerate on its own. Fixing heart ailments often requires surgical procedures and these surgeries are often difficult and risky. There may be an answer to these challenges thru a process known as 3D bioprinting. This method has been advocated to remedy the need for transplanting of tissues and organs. The process on 3D bioprinting makes use of self-supporting materials for regeneration of the nerves to create a 3D heart in preparation for surgery. In a delicate process such as 3D bioprinting, it also involves some challenges when using soft tissues since these replicated tissues are not being supported by the other layers of tissues. However, a team known as the Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics Group discovered the use fibrin and collagen in bioprinting of coronary arteries and hearts. These groups are led by Adam Feinberg who is an associate professor of Carnegie Mellon University on Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. The team of Professor Adam Feinberg discovered the use of open-sourced software and hardware making 3D printers affordable on a consumer-level. The technique they are using requires printing a gel inside another gel. This approach is known as Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels or FRESH. According to Feinberg, gels collapse just like any Jell-o; therefore they developed a technique of printing one gel inside of another gel to provide support. In this manner, they are able to position precisely the soft material as they undergo the process of 3D printing on a layer per layer basis. In order to create the printed designs of the artery tissues and heart, MRI images are taken then through the 3D printer, layers of the second gel are injected inside the translucent support gel. When you submerge the support gel in a body-temperature medium like the human body, it melts but it leaves the bioprinted living cells undamaged and intact. After which, heart cells are integrated into that printed form to assist in the creation of the contractile muscle.
  2. 3D printing has taken the medical industry by storm through the provision of various opportunities for innovation, thus improving the quality of implants. The 3D printing company, Autodesk, created the generative design software featuring 600 innovative implants from the micro-lattice porous structures to bioprinted blood vessels. Senior director of design research, Mark Davis, said that the software uses different pore size configurations to help porous implant integrate properly with the injured bone. The software also optimizes the 3D printing process from electron beam melting ad direct metal laser sintering for accuracy and precision in making the implants. Doctors and other medical professionals now have a powerful tool in treating patients suffering from conditions that are usually difficult to treat using conventional methods. Aside from the innovative implants from Autodesk’s Within Medical structure, the company can also collaborate from other institutions to create different titanium implants that are flexible and comfortable for the patients. The new tool offers different innovations such as porous random latticing, rough lattice surfaces, conformal lattices, and variable lattice density which are all developed in order to make the implants more effective, fast-acting, and comfortable. Aside from improving the technology of 3D bioprinting, Autodesk’s Within Medical makes it easy for people to achieve individualized and customized treatment. It has contributed immensely to changing the ways of 3D bioprinting in terms of design and manufacturing of implants. It is a good tool that will standardize the implants of the future thus making them more biologically compatible and smart.
  3. Synthetic eyeballs are possible in the near future thanks to 3D printing. While 3D bioprinting was already able to produce tissues for kidneys, nose, skin and bones, researchers find developing the technology to make 3D printed eyes elusive. However, a company from Italy called MHOX has proposed an idea for synthetic eyeballs that can be produced by using 3D printer. To make this synthetic eyeball more interesting, it comes with a wide variety of functions thus making this innovation close to what we call bionic or superhuman eyes. The project stems from the idea of augmenting what the human sense of sight cannot do thus increasing the functionality of the eye. MHOX is planning to release different models of the bioprinted eye called EYE which is an acronym for Enhance Your Eye. The three models include EYE Heal, EYE Advance and EYE Enhance. The first concept aims to help cure blindness and any types of diseases to the eyes while the EYE Advance is basically a bionic eye that comes with a small Wi-Fi modem that allows users to upload filtered videos to the cloud. Lastly, the EYE Enhance will allow the owners to improve their vision. It also comes with different filters to improve the sight of the wearer. Lead designer Filippo Nasetti noted that it is high time for the superhuman 3D printed eye to be developed. While this innovation is very promising, there is a catch. You need to have your own eyes surgically removed so that the bionic eye can be inserted onto the socket. While this is a scary thought, researchers are still developing a way to use the bionic eye without resorting to the surgical removal of the real eyes.
  4. 3D bioprinting is an emerging technology in the field of medical science. Aside from creating 3D replica of the organs of the body, 3D printing can also be used to help end donor organ shortage. Researchers are now working on using 3D printing to fabricate different organs like the heart, kidneys and other important human organs. Researchers from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine led by Dr. Anthony Atala are now working on 3D bioprinting to end donor organ shortage. The goal of the research is to engineer organs by using the patient’s own cells thus preventing any issues in relation with organ rejection. Currently, the researchers were able to successfully develop bladders, skin, cartilage and urine tubes. To create the organs, the cells are mixed with liquid material that also provides oxygen as well as nutrients to keep the cells alive. This mixture is then placed inside a specialized 3D bioprinter cartridge. The 3D bioprinted organ is then built using a computer software with the medical scans of the patient. This is to ensure that the new organ is as similar as the patient’s real organ in both physiological and anatomical aspects. This technology is very promising and while the researchers were successful in printing common organs like the skin, complex organs such as liver and pancreas are still very difficult to create. Currently, researchers are still exploring a variety of options to make the cells more viable. Nevertheless, once this technology is perfected, it can end the problem of donor organ shortage.
  5. The trachea is one of the most understated parts of the respiratory system. Also called the windpipe, it is a tube that connects the larynx and pharynx to the lungs. The trachea is a rigid tube that is made up of several cartilage rings called the cricoid cartilage. The cartilage is a necessary support system that allows the trachea to remain open. It also prevents the collapse of the trachea with the sudden movements made on the neck. While trachea seems to be a very sturdy organ, there are times when it gets damaged due to the presence of a tumor, endotracheal intubation as well as other injuries. What makes it difficult is that a weakened and damage trachea is difficult to repair. To add more to the difficulty, tracheal replacement is a subject that is less charted until today. However, researchers from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have developed a way to use 3D printing to help doctors treat damage on trachea. Using the MakerBot 3D printer, researchers were able to create prototypes of scaffolding for the tracheal cartilage. The scaffold was then covered in bio-ink using a mixture of chondrocytes and collagen. Researchers have used a specialized 3D bioprinter for the biomaterials used. With 3D bioprinting, researchers were able to create a 3D printed scaffolding which surgeons can examine and use as a model to help them with the tracheal replacement. Making a trachea using 3D bioprinters is an unchartered territory in the field of medical science and engineering. If they can fully develop this technology, this will be very helpful to people who needs help in patching up their damaged trachea.
  6. Medical researchers have taken 3D bioprinting into another level as they have replicated DNA structures that can be used as “inks” in 3D designs to aid in the research of different yet new areas in medical diagnostics and the creation of nanomaterials. What is exciting about this development is that DNA can be programmed by changing the sequence of its amino acids, plus it is a stable structure. According to MIT associate professor and proponent of the study Mark Bathe, his team created computer-modeled DNA structures using DNA “scaffolds” in 2005. The structures were created first in 2D and then were later created into 3D structures when 3D medical printers became available. At first, the researchers were able to develop only limited shapes with the program. However, after streamlining the research, they were able to generate 3D DNA structures that are as complex as biological DNA structures. Researchers were able to create rings, spheres, discs as well as other complex shapes like tetrahedron, octahedron and dodecahedrons from the synthetic DNA structures. Because of the ability to cut the synthetic DNA structures, researchers from MIT has seen the potential of these structures for diverse applications. Potential applications of the synthetic DNA include the study of bacterial toxins and drug therapy delivery. Currently, the algorithm is still unavailable for public use. However, the MIT researchers have noted that they are still currently improving the technology so that it can be used to create more medical and scientific nanostructures for varied applications.
  7. Conventional cosmetic testing is often done on animals. However, cosmetic testing on animals is very controversial thus a leading cosmetic company, L’Oreal invested on 3D bioprinted skin for safer cosmetic testing by partnering with a leading 3D bioprinting company. L’Oreal partnered with a 3D bioprinting company, Organovo, to create 3D bioprinted skin to test the toxicity of personal care products. The company has been developing the 3D printed skin since October this year. Organovo also announced the commercial release of this testing kit dubbed as exVive3D Human Liver Tissue. Organovo also partnered with the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery for the transplant of human patients who will be subjected to the clinical trials for five years. The exVive3D Human Liver Tissue used in preclinical drug testing works by replicating the functions of a living human liver tissue such as its ability to produce proteins. It is created to look like a skin. Testing run of the bioprinted tissue was able to differentiate toxic and non-toxic compounds. Moreover, the bioprinted liver also allows both histological and biochemical data to be collected thus customers can investigate the responses of compounds at multiple levels. Bioprinting can revolutionize conventional tissue engineering by addressing the shortage of available tissue for both transplantation and repair. However, what Organovo and L’Oreal did is that they took tissue bioprinting to the next level by finding novel application. This new application of 3D bioprinting has opened new doors on how to use 3D medical bioprinting to the next level.
  8. In the future, some scientists believe that technologies like 3D bioprinting can help create organs with superhuman abilities. One of the people who speculate this kind of future of bioprinting is Agatha Haines. Today, there are many research facilities and companies all over the world who are working on ways to print organs and design organs to function more efficiently. Currently, the company Organovo was successful in developing 3D printed livers for implants. With this, Haines focused her study in designing the impacts of 3D bioprinting to the human body. In a presentation she gave at Design Indaba Conference, she mentioned about how it will be easy for scientists to act like Dr. Frankenstein by being able to design humans differently—in any way that an individual would want. The thing is that 3D bioprinting may give scientists a God-like ability or maybe bringing cosmetic surgery to a whole new level. However, another facet of her vision is that it may be possible for scientists to create organs with superhuman abilities. According to Haines, it will now be possible to engineer humans that are better suited to living in futuristic environments. In her presentation, she revealed a baby with extra large cheeks in order to absorb more caffeine thus allowing the baby to work longer hours efficiently when already grown up. Another interesting design she presented was a baby with head flaps which serve as arctic coolers to combat the heat from global warming. Whether her designs are outrageously fictional or highly possible, one thing is for sure and that is 3D bioprinting presents a lot of limitless potential to people.
  9. Researchers from the ARC Center for Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) of St. Vincent’s Hospital and University of Wollongong in Melbourne, Australia are using 3D printers to study the human brain. The researchers are using a 3d printer to print living brain tissues using stem cells. Professor Jeremy Crook from ACES is working with living brain cells printed in a bioprinter to study conditions like epilepsy and schizophrenia. With the 3D bioprinting technology, they also aim to provide a transferable tissue that can be directly implanted to the human brain. Initially, 3D bioprinted tissues of the brain will be utilized to study different neurological diseases but Professor Crook noted that the living tissues generated through bioprinting can be used to restore the function of the human brain that are afflicted by certain neurological disorders. Professor Crooks noted that the biomaterials created from bioprinters can be used to support cell as well as tissue engineering to have a better model of disease biology. The results of this research can also be used in areas including disease processes and progression, drug development and cell replacement therapy. Moreover, the researchers are also looking at the potential of 3d bioprinting in developing biosynthetic implants that can be fabricated using the stem cells of the patient. This technology has a lot of potential but the researchers noted that this technology is still in its initial phase, it might still be decades before the benefits will be realized but Professor Crooks and the other proponents of this study remain hopeful.
  10. Many scientists are taking 3D bioprinting to the next level by creating medical devices that are unlikely to be conceived 10 or 20 years ago. In a research led by Dr. Michael C. McAlpine from Princeton University, they have developed a 3D bioprinter that is capable of creating a five-layered contact lens that can display information and, at the same time, detect different health problems of the wearer. Funded by the United States Air Force, this particular contact lens can help equip pilots monitor their in-flight well-being particularly their exhaustion levels. The best thing about this particular invention is that it can be customized depending on the need of the user. While 3D bioprinting has been limited to materials like passive conductors and plastics, the new contact lens was made from various materials that have been integrated into different components of the device. This means that each layer of the contact lens come with active properties that help read the vital signs of the wearer. The new contact lens is made from a transparent polymer that is embedded with sundry components which include a quantum dot light that emits nanoparticles, solid and liquid metal leads as well as organic polymers. The contact lens conforms to the needs of its wearers. According to Dr. McAlpine, the use of 3D printing in creating this particular device makes it possible to create contact lenses that will match the contours of the user’s eyes. Although this particular device is promising, it is still under development and news about its availability in the market is still undisclosed. However, researchers are very optimistic about the different kinds of devices that can be made possible with 3D bioprinting.
  11. Researchers from Russian laboratory called 3D Bioprinting Solutions announced that the first successful product of 3D bioprinting will be transplanted and results will be published on May 2015. The first 3D bioprinted organ will be the thyroid gland. The head of the research laboratory, Vladimir Mironov, noted that the thyroid gland was chosen as the first product in 3D medical printing because of the simplicity of the organ. The bioprinted thyroid was created by a 3D printer that shoots off stem cells. The stem cells are precisely arranged on a hydrogel and then soaked in bioreactor to further develop into the thyroid organ. The testing of the first bioprinted thyroid will be done on mice and Mironov gave details on how the testing will go about. The biological thyroid of the mice will be shut off and this will lead to the level of thyroid hormones to drop. The bioprinted thyroid will then be transplanted and the level of the hormones will then be monitored if it will get back to normal. The scientists are very positive about the outcome of the transplantation. If the transplantation will be successful, the scientists see that thyroid 3D bioprinted organ will go down in the annals of medical history as the very first bioprinted organ to be successfully transplanted. The Russian professor also wants to develop other organs through 3D medical printing. Once the 3D bioprinted thyroid will be successful, his team also aspires to make a functional kidney using 3D printing technology.
  12. 3D bioprinting is now becoming a popular medical technology that doctors use in order to study medical models that can lead to breakthroughs in treating diseases and injuries. For instance, a 3D bio printed model of tumors can help surgeons remove cancer accurately without risking any damage to the surrounding healthy cells and tissues. While 3D medical printing is a technology that is available only among doctors, creating 3D bio printed models is now possible. And this means that 3D bioprinting will no longer be only available to doctors but also to ordinary people. A company called Butterfly Network is now developing ways to make 3D bio printed models available to ordinary people. The proposed device will be the size of an iPhone which can make scans of the body using a very tiny ultrasound chip. Aside from creating accurate scans and models of different parts of the body, the technology can be further developed so that it can effectively kill cancer cells with heat from ultrasound. This device is still being developed and the company is raising $100 million for its creation. Since this device is still in the drawing board, its details are still scarce but proponents of this device do not only want the device to create 3D bioprinting images but also help with the diagnosis of different diseases like cancer. It can also be used to visualize the womb of mothers thus making ultrasound technology something that people can do within the comforts of their homes. There is a big potential for 3D bio printed models in the medical industry. Soon, people will see devices like this as common as smart phones.
  13. 3D bioprinting is a process of creating spatially-controlled cells using 3D printers. There are many uses of this particular technology which includes the use of 3D printers to make stem cells and building body parts to replace damaged ones. It is one of the most important engineering tools brought into the field of medical technology. One of the most recent and interesting use of 3D bioprinting is on breast cancer research. Researchers from the Texas Medical Center created in vitro models of breast cancer by magnetically levitating the cancer cells using a commercial 3D bioprinting system. By levitating the cell cultures, the research team conducting this study was able to replicate the tumor cells in a micro-environment with ease. With this technology, using 3D bioprinters allow researchers to form large-sized models within a few hours, mimic the tumor microenvironment and test the drug efficiency in a model that is compatible with the in vivo (natural environment) of the cancer cells. With the magnetically levitated 3D bioprinted cancer cells, the researchers also have control over the tumor density as well as composition. This gives researchers a lot of opportunities to test different environmental factors of the cancer cells and help them better understand it—which hopefully would lead to a cure. The research provides a better model of the breast cancer which signifies a very important breakthrough when it comes to studying cancer cells outside the body. Without 3D bioprinting, it is difficult to culture cancer cells in conditions outside the host. With this technology, it opens new doors of possibilities for future researchers to develop new and effective treatment modalities for cancer.
  14. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created an innovative robot which has a more dramatic range of motion and a more accurate control of its movements. Researchers hope that this "bio-bot" can enhance future designs of robots for research, construction, exploration, and even disaster relief operations. This bio bot is powered by a skeletal muscle tissue from a mouse. It is skeletal tissues that drive human movement – from a little twitch of the finger to the whole leg running. Inspired by the starfish with its stretchy yet strong structure, the bio-bot is a 3D printed soft robot with integrated mouse skeletal muscle tissue. The results were amazing. The soft robot was able to carry out a more dynamic motion that, when compared to its predecessors, is freer and more capable of complicated motor tasks. This soft robot was able to move with the help of electric currents, making it more manageable than its soft robot predecessors made of cardiac muscles. Bio bots made with cardiac muscle tissues are difficult to control because the cardiac tissues twitch uncontrollably. But, with the use of skeletal muscles, the researchers have complete control over the bio bot just by manipulating the electrical current. Speed of the bio bot can easily be influenced by slowing down the frequency of the electrical signals. If an increase in speed is needed, a corresponding increase in frequency of the electrical signal is used. With this great finding, it opens hundreds of different possibilities for forward design principles. It also opens avenues for engineers to customize this study to fit specific applications like mobile environmental analyzers, “smart” implants, surgical robotics to name a few. With the successful completion of the study and the research, the researchers announced that the cell-based soft robots can further the designs of systems and machines that can animatedly respond and sense a range of multifaceted environmental signals.
  15. Medical researchers have taken 3D bioprinting into another level as they have replicated DNA structures that can be used as “inks” in 3D designs to aid in the research of different yet new areas in medical diagnostics and the creation of nanomaterials. What is exciting about this development is that DNA can be programmed by changing the sequence of its amino acids, plus it is a stable structure. According to MIT associate professor and proponent of the study Mark Bathe, his team created computer-modeled DNA structures using DNA “scaffolds” in 2005. The structures were created first in 2D and then were later created into 3D structures when 3D medical printers became available. At first, the researchers were able to develop only limited shapes with the program. However, after streamlining the research, they were able to generate 3D DNA structures that are as complex as biological DNA structures. Researchers were able to create rings, spheres, discs as well as other complex shapes like tetrahedron, octahedron and dodecahedrons from the synthetic DNA structures. Because of the ability to cut the synthetic DNA structures, researchers from MIT has seen the potential of these structures for diverse applications. Potential applications of the synthetic DNA include the study of bacterial toxins and drug therapy delivery. Currently, the algorithm is still unable for public use. However, the MIT researchers have noted that they are still currently improving the technology so that it can be used to create more medical and scientific nanostructures for varied applications.
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