August 30, 2020

One massive development in human biology involves the use of 3D printers in replicating organs and tissues.3D printing is basically the constructor of a 3D object from a CAD model or a digital 3D model. In the past two decades, it is developing in such a level that it can print the basic replacement part for the human being. This technology has many applications in Organ printing and donation, surgical training, Organ on a chip method, etc. Here, We will mainly focus on its application in organ printing and donation.



The field of organ printing stemmed from research in the area of Stereolithography, the basis for this technology that was invented in 1984. But, the concept of organ and tissue making was first demonstrated in 1988 in a theoretical way. In the early era, it was not possible to create lasting objects because the materials being used were not very sturdy. After the development of nanocomposites at the beginning of 1990, the first artificial organ made using bioprinting was printed at Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicines. The scientists printed an artificial scaffold for human bladder and then seeded it with cells from their patients. Using this method, they were able to grow a functioning organ, and ten years after implantation, the patient had no serious complications.

                                         After the achievement, Biotechnologists started more and more research in this field. Organ printing utilizes techniques similar to conventional 3D printing where a computer model is fed into a printer that lays down successive layers of plastics or wax until a 3D object is produced. The most popular technologies used are the following:-

Sacrificial Writing Into Functional Tissue (SWIFT): It is a method of organ printing where living cells are packed tightly to mimic the density that occurs in the human body. 

Drop Based Bioprinting (Inject Process): It makes cellular developments utilizing droplets of an assigned material, which has been combined with a cell line and then starts to polymerize (as shaping a bigger structure as droplets start to coalesce).

Fused Deposition Modelling: It is the most common procedure. Plastic beads are heated at a high temp. and released from the printhead as it moves, building the objects in a thin layer. 

The other processes are Stereolithographic bioprinting, Selective laser sintering, etc.

                                 Now, come to the material! The material used by the printer is biocompatible plastics like Natural Polymers {Chitosan, Hydroxyapatite, Collagen, Gelatin}, Synthetic Polymers { Poly Ethelene Glycol (PEG), Poly Lactic Glycolic Acid (PLGA), Polyurethane (PU)} and some natural-synthetic hybrid Polymers{ Gelatin Methacryloyl (GelMA)}. 

                                        These bio-compatible polymers form a scaffold that acts as the skeleton for the organ is being printed. As the polymer is being laid down, it is also seeded with human cells from the patient organ is being printed for. Then the organ is transferred to an incubation chamber to give the cells time to grow. After a sufficient amount of time, the organ is implanted into the patient.




Organ printing has a very significant role in organ donation. According to statistics, the average of 20 people in India dies every day from the lack of available organs for transplant. Organs that can be donated after death are heart, liver, kidney, lungs, pancreas, and tissues are cornea, skin, veins, heart, valves, and ligaments. After retrieval of organs from a body, the heart is alive for only 6 hours and liver and kidneys for 12 hours. That is, transplants have to be done within a few golden hours which is not possible all time due to long distance. Many patient die due to the unavailability of organ donors. So, if organs could be printed as soon as there is a need, there would be no shortage. Additionally, seeding printed organs with the patient’s own cell would eliminate the need to screen donor organs for compatibility.



Organ printing is a novel industry that utilizes biological components to develop therapeutic applications for organic transplants. Though, there are some negative issues about this. There can be legal complications from pre-clinical to clinical translations for this treatment method. This study also raises questions on the ethical implications of autologous and allogenic sources and begins to examine future risks for humans undergoing experimental testing.

                                        Still, we can keep positive hope! The process is in the developmental stages. Thus, the long term impact has yet to be determined.


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