The long road to reliable organ printing

Bioprinted organs could be a revolution in transplantation and regenerative medicine, but a daunting list of scientific challenges stand in the way of the future. What are the main unresolved challenges in the field, and how are academics and the med tech industry working to solve them?

the med tech industry working to solve them?

As the emerging field of 3D bioprinting continues to develop, it offers the prospect of a true revolution in regenerative medicine. Bioprinting methods are already in use in tissue engineering, organ-on-chip research and the building of organ-shaped constructs of living tissue, among other applications.

Perhaps the ultimate objective in the field is to make functional bioprinted organs a reality for regenerative therapies and transplant purposes. The clinical potential of such a breakthrough is obvious, but so far a host of technical challenges – from cellular density to biomaterial limitations – have left this dream goal just out of reach. The lifecycle limitations of primary cells means that stem cells are the most promising approach for their longevity, self-renewal and pluripotency, so fundamental understanding of stem cell differentiation needs to be improved.

“Despite the successful studies and reported outstanding research efforts, the path to fully build a 3D bioprinted organ has yet to be accomplished and there are several challenges to be solved to further advance this exciting research theme,” wrote Dr Veysi Malkoc of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Biomedical Engineering in a 2018 editorial published in the Journal of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

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