Bioprinting: Phenomenon or Potential?

Author: Joshuah Gagan

I don’t think I am the first person to be astonished by 3D printing. Then again, I’m not sure if I am the second person to be astonished by 3D bioprinting, a phenomenon that has been consistently evolving in the past decade. The launch of such a huge biomedical advance has put scientists on a course to change the future, where every biomedical lab will have a bioprinter ready to disperse samples of cells, tissues, and one day organs. But a phenomenon can only last so long until it loses interest. By that I mean when, relatively, will we start inventing the next revolution in technology? As of today, the furthest advancement in bioprinting was the full-scale print of an artificial kidney, an almost-perfect structure with vascularity and function. But that was 2011. We’re close to 2019, and nothing has happened so far. So what will?

I’d like to think a ‘hype’, or as it is traditionally called a fad, can last as long as the audience can be engaged before it becomes a dud. But such a scientific field shouldn’t be necessarily a phenomenon, especially in our biomedical community. Yet, it’s treated as one. There aren’t many scientists utilizing the advances behind bioprinting as most underestimate it’s potential. Most labs even consider bioprinters as a paperweight, collecting dust in a corner. The possible reason: today, there is no use for bioprinting, as a majority of its industry has no real understanding of the field itself.

For what it is, it’s a great field to enter into. Besides it’s wow factor, bioprinting accelerates the scaffolding process for tissue engineers, increases accuracy, and rapidly develops structures in less time than it would by hand. This is a critical achievement, as tissue replacement and organ production can save millions of lives on the organ donor list. There are even multiple articles that reference advancements and treatments on bioprinting. Some examples include in situ wound healing/skin regeneration for burn victims, revitalized tissue replacements for sensitive tissue areas including the heart and lungs, and in some cases, regenerated full organs including ears, noses, and hearts (though pending).1

Ergo it begs the question of what barriers prevent technologies like these from coming into healthcare. And the answer is overestimation. Several companies in the mid-2010s came out to claim bioprinting is capable of reproducing organs through their novel printers. Companies, such as BioBots, Organovo, and RegenMAT have all at some point claimed to conceive an organ in production. However, it was stated as more of an accessory to their long-term business plan, though advertised differently in media and conferences. Truth is, only one doctor has actually printing an organ, and that same doctor admits that there are many steps to take before producing organs on a larger scales. Bioprinting is not just by clicking a button and the organ comes to life.” this is actually a new technology we’re working on now. In reality, we now have a long history of doing this.”2 There are multiple biomolecules and several other interactions that occur in the biomaterials that require investigation before pursuing these innovations.

He’s not wrong. In fact, bioprinting is summed up as printing out biomaterials with cells injected, in hopes of producing tissue. Overall, there are just a few more ink reservoirs with their own extruders, each containing growth factors or cells. The real question is: how do we organize all of the components to create artificial tissues or organs? And that is really the science behind it. It’s highly improbable to print out all of the materials in hopes of producing something organic. But what we can work on is understanding why and how these artificial tissues work to an advantage in bioprinting tissues. That is where it’s true potential lies.

Although vascularization is one thing, there are many more aspects of bioprinting to be researched. In the past few years, a couple of different advancements have come about to revitalize the field. Rather than try to resurrect it as a phenomenon, scientists are changing the community’s perspective into reality. Most focus has been on vascularization, a subfield in bioprinting has not yet been well developed. Carnegie Mellon is pushing boundaries by influencing new techniques into vascularization, such as FRESH printing. This allows the printer to dispense material into a gelatinous structure and keeps the mechanical integrity of the printed structure. It not only keeps it stable but also controls the rate of flow and prevents error in prints. The idea was conceived in 2015 and some articles have attracted keen scientists to the subfield. If there is enough evidence to support it, it can definitely accel the process of transplanting organs entirely.

But it’s promise and potential are enough to encourage scientists to give their support and reinvigorate bioprinting. Perhaps today from now, one will witness the potential behind artificial tissues as they are implanted into someone’s heart. Today from now, no one will have to be impatient to await tissue implants and skip the line. Today from now, we’ll see bioprinting at its pinnacle instead of imaging what good it can bring.

(The question is: what do you think the world will look like when you know you can print an organ?)

References

1. Nature, 2015, https://www.nature.com/news/the-printed-organs-coming-to-a-body-near-you-1.17320

  1. TED, 2011, https://www.ted.com/talks/anthony_atala_printing_a_human_kidney/transcript
  2. Science Advances, 2015, http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/9/e1500758.full

2016 Nobel laureates: who they are and what their contributions are to mankind

History has shown us that often the difference between a useful tool and a deadly weapon lies not in the object itself, but the manner in which it is used. This was the case of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and engineer who figured out a way to turn nitroglycerin, an unstable and unpredictable explosive, into a safe and controllable compound: dynamite. While revolutionizing the mining, oil and railway industries, it also boosted the armament business into a new, more powerful era. In his last days, regretting the consequences of his invention and his own profit from it, Nobel decided to devote his fortune to a set of prizes for those people who “have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”. That is how the Nobel Foundation was created, which, together with renown scientific institutions, nominate and award every year outstanding people from all over the world. In this article, we will take a look at the Nobel Laureates of 2016 and the work for which they are recognized.

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Understanding Cancer Immunotherapy

The Immune system

Our Immune system comprises different cell types, which are programmed to identify and destroy foreign cells. There are three main categories of cells in our immune system: (1) Lymphocytes comprising the T and B cells, (2) Antigen-presenting cells: macrophages and dendritic cells (3) Granulocytes: neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils. The immune response generated by these cell types can be classified in to two types: the innate immune response and adaptive immune response. Continue reading

Know Thy Researcher

Conceiving an idea, pursuing its experimental validation, publication, ground trial and finally making it available to human kind takes a lot of paid and generous contributions of researchers. Individual efforts form the basis of any transformative scientific development and become crucial in the evolution of any field of study. It is therefore important to recognize researchers and their contributions. Approximately 1.5 million research papers were published in journals in 2010 alone. At an average of 3 authors per paper, excluding multiple papers per author, the lowest estimate of the number of unique researchers listed would be about 4.5 to 5 million per year. How does one recognize each author and their work? It is a cumbersome job for other researchers, employers and stakeholders to identify each researcher based on some of the current literature citation protocols and formats. Continue reading

Chlamy– A tiny, mighty alga…

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is the size of ten microns under a microscope, which is smaller than the diameter of a hair follicle, but this organism is a treasure trove of information relevant to plant evolution and human health (Chlamydomonas). Scientists working on it, often call it “Chlamy”. Chlamy is a unicellular, biflagellate green alga that thrives in fresh water ponds and lakes. The amazing ability of Chlamy to prepare its food by using light in the process of photosynthesis, and assimilate in the dark by utilizing available carbon sources in its medium, which make this tiny algae very special. This is the reason some people also call it Plan-imal (Plant + Animal). The photosynthesis is achieved by a single cup-shaped chloroplast. The photosynthetic apparatus is closely related to that of land plants, and its haploid genome during its vegetative phase leads to many important discoveries. Continue reading