THE BIOPRINTING EVOLUTION: THEN, NOW, AND WHERE NO ORGAN HAS GONE BEFORE

1984. A marking year for the sciences. Technology giants like Apple and Dell launching new personal computers. Biology making the evening news with Steen Malte Willadsen successfully cloning a sheep with nuclear transfer. And Tetris. Also the year Charles Hull developed the first stereolithography method for printing resin layer by layer. It was the year 3D bioprinting was born.

Early breakthroughs in bioprinting
In the 90s, 3D printing began to include the printing of hydrogel-based materials. In 1996, Dr. Gabor Forgacs began experimenting with growing cells on a spatial scaffold, a three-dimensional structure. And it was at the turn of the millennium, that the world’s first artificial bladder was successfully grown and transplanted into a child by Professor Anthony Atala and his team. The synthetic organ was created on a collagen structure and seeded with the patient’s own bladder tissue cells. The patient is still alive and healthy.

In 2003, Thomas Boland modified an office inkjet printer to make it print biomaterial. And a few years later in 2009, the same Dr. Forgacs ⁠— who was using spatial scaffolds to grow cells— broke ground by creating a 3D bioprinter capable of printing living cells without using a structure. Organovo’s bioprinter disrupted the industry in that new kinds of tissues, such as blood vessels, could directly be printed without first using a cell scaffold. This led to more bioprinting breakthroughs in the field of tissue engineering, and the recreation of more live materials such as skin, cartilage, liver and vascular tissues, as well as heart valves…

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