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The Role of 3D Bioprinting in 2017

The Role of 3D Bioprinting in 2017

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3D bioprinting is revolutionizing healthcare. [1] The technology has existed since 1984. However, advancements in the field have recently garnered significant attention. 3D bioprinted medical devices are relatively inexpensive compared to devices that engineers construct using traditional methods, which has health professionals excited. The following are some innovations that 3D bioprinting technologies are bringing to medicine and healthcare.

Prescription Drugs

Officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the first bioprinted prescription drug. [2] Aprecia Pharmaceuticals has developed Spritam for the approximately 3 million Americans who suffer from epilepsy. The company CEO, Don Wetherhold, states that engineers have merged Spritam with a highly effective epilepsy treatment to assist patients who struggle with their current prescription regimens.

In the future, researchers forecast that 3D bioprinting will enable on-demand customization of prescriptions, especially in pharmacies. [3] Instead of manufacturing and distributing drugs, pharmaceutical firms may soon enter the business of designing and distributing 3D drug blueprints. This would greatly streamline logistics challenges and help to reduce costs significantly.

Medical Models for Teaching and Diagnosing

Scientists in the fields of anthropology and anatomy have collaborated to create 3D bioprinted models for research and education. [4] To begin this process, the scientists identified the body regions, organs and tissue structures that would provide the most value to researchers and students. Before creating the anatomical replicas, the scientists further refined the digital 3D models manually. They then used specialized software to output the digital model rendering with a 3D bioprinter.

When working with anatomical model made with 3D bioprinting, students report the learning tools offer an advantage for learning and evaluation purposes. Of particular benefit is the ability to print oversized organs for close examination and to manipulate anatomical structures without the need for dissection or cadavers.

Medical Research

Because 3D bioprinting uses digital technology, researchers can share modeling instructions easily. [5] Rather than attempting to express a concept using the traditional format of a medical journal, researchers can build 3D computer files and post virtual models to open source databases for peers to download and print. To facilitate this, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established the 3D Print Exchange, where stakeholders can submit and download information on anatomical models; laboratory equipment; medical devices; and replicas of proteins, viruses and bacteria.

Despite innovations engineered by various medical technology firms, 3D bioprinting has made a relatively minimal impact on the healthcare field. [6] As of 2017, 3D bioprinting is only a $700 million field, small in comparison to other medical disciplines. However, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) forecasts a rapid expansion to $8.9 billion in revenues over the next decade.

Internal Organs and Implants

Another NCBI journal reports that 3D bioprinting technology holds considerable promise for advanced tissue engineering and related regenerative disciplines. [7] The technology has successfully made the leap from producing prosthetic devices to printing internal organs. [5]

A related NCBI journal reports that researchers have successfully used 3D bioprinting to create several other anatomical structures. Some of which are:

  • Blood vessels
  • Bones
  • Ears
  • Jawbones
  • Windpipes

Researchers are also working on a surgical 3D bioprinting technology that prints internal organs inside the human body during surgery. In the future, doctors hope to refine the technology and fill the medical needs of consumers who die while waiting for suitable organs to come available.

Prosthetics: Working on the Leading-edge

In the past, Professor Juan Garcia of Johns Hopkins University created external prosthetic devices using wax and hand tools. He then used the handmade model to shape the actual devices out of silicone that matches the skin complexion of the intended recipient. [5] Now, he uses 3D bioprinting technology to complete the entire process.

Professor Garcia begins the procedure by scanning the unaffected side of a client’s body and creating a mirror image wax mold. He then prints prosthetics to replace or complement damaged external organs. The professor can reuse the resulting scan and make modifications as needed. While the technology represents a vast improvement in workflow, professor Garcia hopes that engineers will soon improve the color matching (i.e. skin matching) capabilities of 3D bioprinting.

A growing number of healthcare organizations are adopting 3D bioprinting technologies. Now that clinically functional 3D bioprinting technology is in circulation, the next task for care providers is finding imaginative new uses for the technology.

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Healthcare markets are expanding. The workforce is growing. That means demand for new leadership is rising, too. Through the online Master of Healthcare Administration in Strategy and Innovation at Adventist University of Health Sciences, you can learn to steer multifaceted health systems toward a culture of innovation, all in line with your core morals. We believe furthering healthcare starts with advancing dedicated leaders like you.

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