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additive in medical


Research Fellow Young Joon Seol works on a project to print experimental muscle tissue for reconstructive surgery.


tissues made up of skin, muscle, tendon, nerves, bone and blood vessels for reconstructive surgery. The advantages of printing tissues, rather than engi- neering them by hand, are many. Printers allow the proper placement of multiple cell types, biomaterials and bioactive molecules in defi ned locations. They also offer the ability to control the size, microarchitecture and interconnectivity of pores in the scaffolds—essential to transporting oxygen and nutrients for cell survival. The technology also offers the op- tion of using a patient’s medical images, such as MRI or CT scans, to tailor-make organs. Of course, there are many challenges to overcome before


printing organs for patients is a reality. The technologies that were designed to print molten plastics and metals must be adapted to print sensitive, living biological materials. And, the more central challenge is to reproduce the complex microar- chitecture of living tissue to ensure that printed tissues have biological function.


Much to Accomplish Before Pressing “Print” Regardless of whether an organ or tissue is engineered


by hand or printed, there is much groundwork that must be accomplished. A thorough understanding of cell biology is vital to the process. Scientists must determine not only what types of cells to use, but how to expand them in the lab and how to keep them alive and viable throughout the engineer- ing process. Do they need to be embedded in biocompatible material? If so, which biomaterial is most suitable? The bar for success is high—lab-engineered structures must function like native tissue.


Also important is the selection of printing strategy and printer type. There are currently three main approaches to 3D bioprinting. With the fi rst, biomimicry, the goal is to manufacture structures identical to the cellular and extracel- lular components of a tissue or organ. This approach requires duplication not only of form and structure, but of organ microenvironment. A second strategy, autonomous self-assembly, relies on the natural process of embryonic organ development. With this approach, the cell drives the process of tissue formation through cell signaling, the production of extracellular matrix


64 — Medical Manufacturing 2015


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