Today we are at the peak of technological development and the use of 3D printers is one of its features. 3d printing has already achieved significant development and, moreover, it has never been easier to make lots of different prototypes of devices as it is today. Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting areas for the application of three-dimensional printing technology is medicine. This area affects the most complex scientific issues such as human health and life. Currently, a large number of patients around the world has the opportunity to benefit from this technology. Using this technology in medicine has lots of benefits, for example, printing of different prostheses, that are perfectly suitable for the individual patient. Also with the help of 3D-technology doctors can model organs and organ systems to perform complex surgical procedures (2.). But the real breakthrough in medicine and 3D-technology today is not just printing of plastic and metal prostheses and various designs, but the printing of organs and tissues with the use of patients cells and it is called bioprinting. Such tissues and organs are perfectly suited to the patient and risk of rejection and painful immunosuppressive therapy is being significantly reduced.
The first organ printed was used in surgery in 1999. It was grown in the laboratory with the help of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine technology. A CT of the urinary bladder of the patient was made and after that, a biodegradable scaffold of the same shape was printed. After the cells of the patient’s bladder tissues were grown in the laboratory, they were layered on the scaffold printed and successfully transplanted (4). This significant event led to further development in this sphere. At the beginning of the XXIst century, an Institute of Regenerative Medicine scientists group at the University of Wick Forest concluded that human tissues can be printed using inkjet printers, that are filled in with living cells. From that moment the painstaking work to create bioprinter to grow human organs began. In 2002, a complete functioning kidney was printed using bio-ink that reiterated a real kidney tissue. Regretfully, this sample was not a living tissue and, therefore, could not be transplanted (4.). After CARTIS was founded in 2006 they began a rapid work and development on the 3d printing sphere, and offered such services like “bespoke medical models, surgical guides, and custom implants and prosthetics.”(4.) Later on, they have printed and successfully transplanted bones (hips, jaws, skulls). Thus, the development in the orthopedic sphere started. The first device was demonstrated in September 2011 at new technologies and design conference “TED-2011” (5.). The device operates in the same way as a conventional inkjet printer, but instead ink it uses stem cells of humans and animals. The 3D printer is capable of printing the pieces of tissue, skin, spinal discs, knee cartilage and full organs. Before printing, the patient's body is being fully scanned from different angles and after that, the information is loaded into a three-dimensional printer, along with the body tissue sample. In just a few hours the unit recreates a replica of the organ, including blood vessels. In addition to the biological material in 3D printing is also used plastic, titanium and other materials for the manufacture of artificial prostheses and various medical instruments (5.). Further in 2013 the Organovo Company has continued a bioprinting development. In the same year, they printed a real cellular liver tissue.
There is a great variety of medical spheres where a 3d printing is used. For instance, already mentioned prostheses and bioprinting, dentistry, implants, special tools for surgery, models in traumatology, pharmacology etc. In dentistry, by using 3D printing one can create dentures and crowns, and it takes less time than using already familiar to us manufacturing technologies (2.). 3D printers are capable of recreating the exact copies of any part of the human body and skeleton. For example, the American company Oxford Performance Materials has successfully conducted an operation of replacing the part of the human skull with the implant created by using the 3D printer (2.). This implant is not just a piece of plastic as it consists of 23 bones and is exactly the same as the real part of the skull. Such technology takes into account the disease of the patient and his anatomical features. Another type of usage of a 3D-printing in medicine is the manufacture of tablets and pharmacology. Scientists believe that most of the new technology will benefit for the children: a three-dimensional printing allows to create pills by following the required dosage (7.). This technology can be also very helpful in pediatrics. Indeed, a pediatrician in addition to personal dosage for a patient may also implement any children's design (7.).
It is worth noting that the list of the most developed companies in this sphere already exists. Such companies as Organovo, Cyfuse Biomedical, BioBots, Aspect Biosystems and others are proficient in the field of bioprinting (1). For example, at New York TechCrunch Disrupt conference BioBots company introduced 3D-printer that prints organs of the human body, using as a living cell material (6.). While, such companies and charity projects like Naked Prosthetics and e-NABLE, etc. manufacture prosthetic hands on 3D-printer (3). Currently, the number of companies in this field will surely increase, because of the overall importance of the 3d printing technology in medicine.
Krassenstein Brian “11 Companies leading the 3d bioprinting space” 3dprint.com, 13.08.2015. Web. 01.05.2016. Retrieved from: <https://3dprint.com/88792/3d-bioprinting-companies/>
Ventola C. Lee “Medical Applications for 3D Printing: Current and Projected Uses” US National Library of Medicine, 2014 Oct. Web. 01.05.2016. Retrieved from: <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4189697/>
“e-NABLE” Charity Project, 01.05.2016. Retrieved from: < http://enablingthefuture.org/>
Whitaker Matthew “The history of 3D printing in healthcare”, The Bulletin. 7, July 2014. Web. 01.05.2016. Retrieved from: <http://publishing.rcseng.ac.uk/doi/full/10.1308/147363514X13990346756481>
Zetter Kim “TED 2011: Print-on-Demand Organs the Future of Medicine”. Wired. 03.07.11. Web. 01.05.2016. Retrieved from: <http://www.wired.com/2011/03/anthony-atala-at-ted/>
Lomas Natasha “BioBots Is A 3D Printer For Living Cells”. TechCrunch. May 4, 2015. Web. 01.05.2016. Retrieved from: <http://techcrunch.com/2015/05/04/biobots-is-a-3d-printer-for-living-cells/>
“3D printing: the future of manufacturing medicine?” The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2 JUN 2015. Web. 01.05.2016. Retrieved from: <http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/features/3d-printing-the-future-of-manufacturing-medicine/20068625.article>