Science-fiction has always been enamored by the idea of humans creating other human beings, or robots that appear to be human themselves. While this probably won’t ever happen, at least in our lifetimes, the possibility of 3D printing entire organs may actually become a reality sometime in the coming decades. The idea of being able to forego the need for donor organs, and simply 3D print one in a lab, has many tremendous benefits. Lives would be saved, risks reduced, and life expectancy could conceivable be extended for hundreds of years.
3D bioprinting, as it is called, has been quite a hot topic within the medical space as of late. There are companies out there such as Organovo and BioBots who are building machines capable of printing real human tissue. Organovo expects to be able to 3D print parts of organs which can then be transplanted onto a person’s faulty organ in order to extend its capabilities, within the coming decade.
Now one startup company, CELLINK looks to create a standard for the 3D bioprinting industry, with their newly unveiled universal bioink which is aimed at 3D printing living and fully functional 3D tissue models.
“Every year, the U.S. Government spends about $20 billion on tissue engineering,” CELLINK representatives explain. “Every month, pharma companies spend about $500 million on drug development, [and] only 1 in 9 succeed. Every day, 21 patients die while waiting for an organ transplant. CELLINK is the final puzzle piece in the 3D bioprinting industry we all have been waiting for.”
That final puzzle piece is a bioink which can be used on a range of available 3D bioprinters, as well as a standalone product which can be used to perform experimental 3D cell culturing. With today’s 3D bioprinters, two separate extruders are typically used; one for laying down a “bioink” and another for laying down the cells onto that ink. With CELLINK, the cells and the bioink may be mixed together as one in a process that allows a single nozzle on a bioprinter to lay down both the bioink and the cells all at once. This further allows for greater detail and precision, as well as the ability to speed up the printing process significantly.
“CELLINK provides you with the printability you have been waiting for,” the company explains. “It offers ideal shape fidelity and stiffness of structures after crosslinking. The optimal composition of our ink makes printing elegantly simple.”
As for the CELLINK Bioink, it is now available for purchase, starting at $99.00 for 3ml or $199 for 10ml. Of course you probably want to know what you are doing before you try and 3D print living cells.
The company, which has showed off this technology by 3D printing miniature ears, currently is looking to expand their presence and increase the types of human tissue capable of being printed.
What do you think about this incredible new “bioink”? Will this speed up the development of new bio-applications for 3D printers? Discuss in the CELLINK forum thread on 3DPB.com.