Although it has captured the public imagination, bioprinting fully functioning vascularized whole organs won't become a reality any time soon. Nor does it need to, says Ibrahim Ozbolat, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Iowa (UI; Iowa City, IA). "That will be very challenging. But we can bioprint something that functions in a similar manner and meets the needs of the patient. It's more realistic to print a simulacrum that performs the same function rather than an exact replica," Ozbolat told PlasticsToday. His research at UI on bioprinting blood vessels and pancreatic, bone, and cartilage tissue is advancing that technology. He will share his expertise next month at the MD&M West exhibition and conference in Anaheim, CA, during a session titled, "The realities, myths, and future potential of bioprinting."
Bioprinting is not simply 3D printing a scaffold or some other nonliving implantable part, notes Ozbolat. It involves printing with live cells in various constructs, and one of the technology's hurdles has been keeping those cells alive throughout the process.