Biological 3D printing recreates organs

When 3D printing technology first came out, people expected it more in the field of industrial production. Now, with the continuous breakthrough of technology, it has begun to show higher value in the field of biomedicine.

In recent years, the world's top scientific research team has used 3D bio-printing technology to start transplanting human liver, spine, heart and other organs. Some people believe that 3D printing is one of the contradictions between the individualized needs of the health industry and the large-scale manufacturing. 3D bioprinting can make a difference in improving the level of existing medical technology, such as personalized medicine. In fact, the "Made in China 2025" issued by the State Council also clearly pointed out the breakthrough and application of new technologies such as bio-3D printing and induced pluripotent stem cells.

How much "mystery" does the seemingly imaginative technique use to print a living organ with a machine? How does a 3D bioprinter work?

The concept is proposed:

To solve the problem of limited source of transplanted organs

The ultimate goal of 3D bioprinting is to solve the problem of limited source of transplanted organs, because in the existing medical methods, the acquisition of one organ is premised on the loss of another human organ, and the number of organs that are actively or passively lost is far. Far less than the organs needed.

For example, there are about one million end-stage liver disease patients who need liver transplantation every year in China, and only three to four thousand of them have undergone transplant surgery; only one in 20 thousand patients who need dialysis every year can find kidney. source. As a result, researchers have developed many alternatives, such as the use of animal-derived organs or artificially manufactured organs.

The emergence of 3D bio-printers has the potential to solve this problem, thereby continuing the lives of patients and improving their quality of life.

Printing principle:

Human cells as bio-ink

3D bioprinters require human cells as bio-ink. First, researchers will extract stem cells from people's bone marrow or fat and biochemically differentiate them into other types of cells. Subsequently, these cells will be stored as "toner", and each drop of "toner" may contain 10,000 to 30,000 cells. When the 3D bio-printer is activated, the "toner" will be gathered by the print head on the pre-designed part, and the embryo of the printing organ will gradually appear.

According to Lin Feng, deputy director of the Bio-manufacturing Center of Tsinghua University, bio-based 3D printing consists of four levels based on printed materials, biological properties and applications.

“The first level is to use ordinary engineering materials to print out the in vitro personalized model for doctors to diagnose, communicate or design surgical treatment plans.” Lin Feng picked up a pale yellow mandible model and pointed out, “This Is a patient's mandible. If the doctor wants to nail a nail here, the patient's mandibular model can be reconstructed from the computer based on the patient's CT image and printed out. The doctor can also plan the location of the punch on the model. , angle and depth, design a guide that can assist the operation, and then use 3D printing to produce a guide plate for use in the surgical procedure, thereby improving the correctness of the operation."

The second level is to use a biocompatible, non-degradable material to print an implant that can be implanted into the patient's body to replace the damaged area. "For example, an ear digital model is created based on the patient's ear, and the other side of the ear model is printed in three dimensions with a polyurethane elastomer, and then implanted under the skin of the patient for suturing."

The third level uses degradable materials to print a scaffold with abundant pores for tissue regeneration. After inoculation of cells, it is cultured in vitro or in vivo to achieve regeneration and repair of defective tissues.

The fourth level is different from the first three levels in that it uses three-dimensional printing of living cells to print out the three-dimensional structure or organization of cells that mimic the three-dimensional structure of the tissue.

The world's first 3D biovascular printer

Can shoot 10 cm long "vessels" in 2 minutes

Recently, a Chinese company has emerged in the global 3D bio-printing field. In October, the company announced a major breakthrough in its 3D bioprinting vascular project with full independent intellectual property rights and included in the National High Technology Research and Development Program (863 Program). The world's first 3D biovascular printer was successfully launched.

Here we must first clear the key points and difficulties in achieving 3D bioprinting? 3D bioprinting is completely different from industrial 3D printing. The fundamental difference between the two is activity. That is, 3D bioprinting is the printing of products containing cellular components and having biological activity. According to reports, the core technology of 3D bio-printing is Biosynsphere, a new type of precise stem cell culture system with biomimetic function. It is a "bio-ink" composed of seed cells (stem cells, differentiated cells, etc.), growth factors and nutrients. It is printed in combination with other layers of materials, and is processed after printing to form a physiologically functional tissue structure. .

After conquering the "bio-brick" technology, the company relied on the data model of the cloud platform to support the company's successful use of 3D biovascular printers to achieve vascular regeneration. It is understood that the vascular printer can shoot 10 cm long blood vessels in just 2 minutes. "The breakthrough of the invention of 3D bio-printing blood vessels is that the 3D bio-printing technology system using stem cells as the core has been completed. It includes four core technology systems: medical imaging cloud platform, bio-ink, 3D bio-printer and post-printing system. With this technical system, organ reconstruction is possible in the future." At the press conference, the person in charge of the company introduced.

It is reported that the 3D biovascular printer can print out the unique hollow structure of blood vessels and multiple layers of different types of cells, which is also the first in the world.


Will bring a revolution to the medical community

The prototype of the first 3D bioprinter was manufactured by Organovo in late 2009 and was named one of the 50 best inventions of 2010 by Time magazine in 2010, but the technology is still in its infancy.

Even though the research of 3D bio-printers is still in the early stage of research and development, its development prospects are expected. According to Invetech and Organovo, 3D bioprinting technology will print functional large blood vessels within five years and print organs such as the heart or liver within ten years. It can be seen that the results of 3D printing technology will definitely bring a revolution to the medical community.

Anthony Atala, of Wake Forest University in North Carolina, USA, used composite cell hydrogel materials to print layer by layer to create a kidney-like structure. Yale University scientists have used animal cells to prepare the lung tissue of rats, which can be implanted in rodents and function for a certain period of time. Tsuyoshi Takato et al. of the University of Tokyo Hospital used artificial protein materials to prepare bone or cartilage by 3D printing technology to treat children with corresponding diseases.

Nowadays, a large number of scientific breakthroughs have been made in the field of 3D bio-printing. These breakthroughs will make us more and more clear about the prospects of 3D printing organs and tissues in the next few years, thus eventually replacing the application of human organ transplantation. At the same time, 3D bio-printing technology will also be used in pharmaceutical, beauty, food, clothing and other fields to completely change our lives. For example, future patients can use standard chemical building blocks to print nanomedicine in their homes, and the food they eat every day comes from a mixture of gels, gelatin materials and fats, and the clothes they wear come from The volume print after the network downloads the template.


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