3D printing has a place in many classrooms, including those in medical schools.
There’s no replacement for live, hands-on training. When it comes to medical school, though, that’s not always an option. Recreating organs for medical students to study and research is an indispensable tool for advancing medical science. Through 3D-printed models and actual bioprinted organs, medical students are pushing the boundaries of biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine.
How are the organs made?
Much like any other additive manufacturing production, 3D-printed organs are built in layers. Instead of extruded plastics, however, 3D-printed organs are made of biomaterials, such as living cells, synthetic glue, and collagen scaffolding. The “bioink” used in bioprinting can consist of cells taken directly from a patient or adult stem cell samples if a patient’s tissue cannot be used. Before the bioink goes into the 3D printer, however, we need a blueprint! Medical students can create patient-specific models to study before surgical intervention, precisely targeting the areas of interest. Bioprinting can take datasets from MRIs, CT scans, and XRays and create a 3D geometry that is converted into a file ready for printing.
Learn more about 3D printing in action.
What kind of organs are normally bioprinted?
Bioprinting has been used to help study or recreate almost every tissue, cartilage, and organ in the body. Much research has been done on bioprinting the heart since it acts as a four-chambered hydraulic pump, which is considerably easier to recreate than some of the biochemical reactions occurring in other organs. Other successfully 3D-printed organs and living tissues include skin, bones, blood vessels, cartilage, kidney, heart, and liver tissues.
Why are 3D-printed organs used?
Anatomically correct 3D-printed organs can help medical students understand specific areas of the human body up close. Prints can be enlarged to show areas of detail, helping students learn about body systems at the micro level. Beyond models, bioprinted tissues and organs are used in pre-surgical preparations to perfect the procedure before it is performed on the patient. Drug testing can also be done on bioprinted, reactive human tissues, reducing trial time and increasing the testing’s accuracy.
How does this help medical science?
Medical education that evolves with science is crucial for tomorrow’s medical providers. Incorporating 3D-printed models and bioprinted organs into medical education gives students the hands-on experience they need. Beyond medical education, there is a severe lack of organ donors in the medical community worldwide. The closer we come to being able to implant bioprinted organs in patients, the closer we are to finding a solution for the shortage. Medical students are advancing this technology through testing and research on recreated, bioprinted organs and tissues.
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