According to all reports and predictions, medical 3D printing is getting more and more popular. Which of the events of the past year deserved to be honored?

While last year’s selection of the most important medical applications has not caused us major problems, only this year the emergence of only the five most important is a much greater challenge. What’s more, this year is not only promises and assumptions, but the real effects of projects. We invite you to read our list of the five most important events in the medical 3D printing industry in 2018.

5. Sugar scaffolds – the future of bioprinting?

Researchers at the University of Illinois have successfully developed a new method for sugar spatial printing. And although it may seem at first glance that this information has little to do with issues in the field of 3D medical printing, 3D printing from isomalt can be particularly useful when creating scaffolds for cell cultures.

The most interesting part of this project, however, is the fact that the developed additive production technology, which does not require the creation of supports, and the sugar material is applied in the air (!). A properly set air stream allows almost instant hardening of the material, allowing it to apply subsequent isomaltic paths. The technique was created for the production of delicate, openwork structures, without a solid filling inside the detail.

Biologically, scaffolds degrading during cell growth are extremely interesting – scientists as an example of their use mention the cultivation of cancer cells to be able to predict the rate or direction of growth, which is impossible in the case of flat laboratory dishes.

4. Bioprinted functional heart tissue – a medical revolution or decoy for investors?

Printed 3D functional organs are the Holy Grail of the bioprinting industry. A few months ago, the world circulated information that the BIOLIFE4D start-up presented a 3D-fabricated human heart tissue. How accurate is this information?

So far, BIOLIFE4D has no scientific publication to support its reports, which would approximate the specificity of the process, technologies used or assess the function of the tissue patch, but hopefully it is only a matter of time and funds. The company is still looking for investors. This does not prevent her from making plans for the 3D-shaping of the valves and larger blood vessels to finally be able to reproduce the whole human heart in its full size.

3. The first prototype of the bionic eye from a 3D printer

The third place of our summary was the project of scientists from the University of Minnesota, who developed a prototype of a bionic eye, which was used to produce 3D printing technology.

The secret to creating a functional eye substitute is the ability to produce spatial optoelectronic devices, also on curved surfaces. The project from the borderline of modern technologies, biology and cellular engineering opens up new potential paths for expanding the possibilities of the human body. The plans are to create a prototype with more printed photoreceptors of light, so as to achieve even better performance and efficiency of the bionic eye. The possibilities of modern technological solutions have the opportunity to redefine the way of manufacturing implants or artificial organs as we know them today. Be sure to see a film documenting the process of producing a bionic eye.

2. CELLINK announces the device for an ultra-precise bioprinter

CELLINK, flowing on the wave of the popularity of the bioprinting, has announced a new device that will be able to print 3D precise biological structures – according to the creators of this technology will enable the production of tissues with the network of blood vessels. Holograph-X uses an ultra-precise method of holographic bioprinting technology, allowing for 3D hip scaling.

The company, in cooperation with Prellis Biologics, will conduct further research and development work, while work on the commercialization of the project continues. According to preliminary findings, the Holograph-X Bioprinter will be commercially available in early 2019. The device from its predecessors also differs in price – it will initially cost 1.2 million dollars!

1. Confirmation of durability of implants from 3D printers and survival of cells from 3D hipodruffers

All research and announcements have sense only when they have confirmation of their effectiveness. One of the frequently discussed topics is the durability of details made in incremental technology. Doubts as to whether the printout may exhibit the same (and even better) mechanical properties as the element made with standard methods, the details result primarily from the dynamic development of this technology.

Dr Guido Grappiolo is a precursor to the implementation of printed implants in modern implantology – he implanted a prosthesis close to ten years ago, the elements of which were made of titanium powder in 3D printing technology. Importantly, after a decade of implant usage, the patient lacks any basis for reimplantation or resection. This means that printed 3D implants have a lifespan similar to implants made by standard methods (the coming years will show if the better) – in addition, they can be matched to the anatomy of the patient.

Also in the case of printed 3D cells, long-term observation could be made this year. Fourteen years ago, dr. Anthony Atala conducted a pioneer procedure of implanting an artificial bladder, grown from tissues obtained in the process of 3D hipodrussing. In this case, the 3D bioprinting technology was used to create a structure from single cells that, growing on a special scaffold in a laboratory environment, created an artificial bladder. 14 years after transplantation there is no reason for resection.

This is extremely important in the case of a relatively new technology which is 3D printing – it allows you to build the recipients’ trust in this method by showing its real possibilities.

What do you think last year’s events in the medical 3D printing world deserve to be honored?

Magdalena Przychodniak
Editor-in-Chief of the 3D Printing Center. A biomedical engineer following the latest reports on bioprinting and 3D printing in modern medicine.

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