Bioengineers top 5 “to-do” list for 3D printing

With the seemingly endless possibilities 3D printing offers the medical field, Trends in Biotechnology has complied a list of top five "to-dos" using the developing technology.

While many advancements in 3D printing have already been discovered there is much more to be studied including, personalized biomedical devices; tissue-engineered skin, cartilage, bone and even fully functioning bladders.

Set to be published Aug. 17, the piece from Trends in Biotechnoogy eyes five areas 3D technology can explore:

1. Organs-on-a-Chip

"Organs-on-a-chip" is exactly what is sounds like: 3D printed microengineered systems like lungs or pancreases are grown from human stem cells on a chip. This offers researchers a special inside look at how these organs function and respond to many different factors.

2. Printing Skin

Printing the tissue covering the entire human body is no easy feat, but researchers have done it with cells situated on a collagen gel that show the smallest intercellular connections 10 days after cultivation. Researchers have grown blood vessels on this sheet of cells, taking a further step in skin recreation for patients with scars or burns.  

3. Facial Reconstruction

As perhaps one of the most complex fields of 3D printing, facial reconstruction involves many steps. While bone, cartilage, skin, muscle, blood vessels, and nerves have all been printed in the laboratory, the final step in recreating craniofacial structures is still some ways away. In the coming years, bioengineers hope to perfect 3D printed scaffolds to be used in to spot defects as well as treating patients with more severe facial injuries.

4. Multi-Organ Drug Screens

3D bioprinting is changing the way we evaluate new drugs. Being able to print tumor models with blood vessels and build "organoids" made up of multiple cell types allow for quicker studies on how drugs interact with our organs.

5. Plug-in Blood Vessels

While efforts to print 3D blood vessel networks within bioengineered tissues has stalled at stacking 2D layers of cells or bioprinting 3D networks, the challenge is to create tissues with blood vessel networks that could directly connect to a patient's arteries or veins.