Bioprinting is a relatively new field that involves creating living tissue with a three dimensional printer. The process of 3D printing is becoming increasingly popular in many fields as it allows for the direct digital manufacture of a wide variety of plastic and metal items. While this technology is revolutionizing by itself, it is now being applied to the field of tissue engineering to produce biological tissue in the form of bioprinters. These devices artificially construct living tissue by outputting layer-upon-layer of living cells. Currently, all bioprinters are experimental and may be constructed in various configurations. However, all bioprinters output cells from a bioprint head that moves left and right, back and forth, and up and down, in order to place the cells exactly where required. Over a period of several hours, this permits an organic object to be constructed in fine detail from very thin layers. In addition to outputting cells, most bioprinters also output a dissolvable gel to support and protect cells during printing. Hydrogels are highly hydrated polymer networks used as scaffolding materials in organ printing. These hydrogel matrices consist of either natural or synthetic polymers that provide a supportive environment in which cells can attach, proliferate, and differentiate. Successful cell embedding requires hydrogels that are complemented with “biomimetic and extracellular matrix components,” to provide biological signals that elicit specific cellular responses and direct the formation of new tissue.
One pioneer in this field is a company named Organovo. This company was created by a research group lead by Professor Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri. In March 2008, Organovo managed to bioprint fully functional blood vessels and cardiac tissue using cells obtained from a chicken. Their work made use of a prototype bioprinter that utilizes three print heads. Two of these print heads output cardiac and...
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