There is much talk and much hype about organ printing. We all seem to assume that we will eventually get a machine that will simply print a complete organ at the flick of a switch. Unfortunately its a lot more complex than that. Printing a full organ seems like a bad idea as the longer it takes to print, the more likely it is for the cells to die, etc
When I was doing my thesis it seemed more sensible to print parts as you would, for example, lego and then assemble the overall organ or tissue or limb. Printing in pieces means many parts can be printed in parallel. For example one could print 100 times faster of course if you had 100 printers each printing a piece of liver rather than one machine printing a whole liver.
There is also another advantage to this of course, printing smaller pieces means we can grow them out letting the cells do the work. All we do is simply guide them.
Also why do we need organs like what we currently have? Why can we not make the design more elegant, more efficient? Just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean there are not better ways to do it.
Aside from this, a simple printer that extrudes cells is not enough. When a builder builds a house, they need different tool and different materials for different jobs and thus it is the same with bioprinting. The machine needs to be able to use a series of tools with a series of materials.
Some aspects of bioprinting require precision, other aspects less so, thus we need different tools.
This is why we have built a hybrid bioprinter... but what is beyond this?
Well I do believe we are heading towards machines that can print directly into people or even 'people', surgery robots will also be bioprinters.
For sure there is a lot more interesting developments to come in bioprinting. But we need to think beyond simple extrusion...
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