The idea of ‘bioprinting’ refers to the 3-dimensional printing of biological tissue and organs through the layering of living cells. It has created the possibility of transforming healthcare as we know it; creating living organs, tissues and bones from the patient’s own cells. In this article I will be talking about the use of bioprinting in dentistry; creating jaws, bridges and dental pulp.
How does it Work?
Bioprinting works by taking bioink – ink made up of the essential cells of the organ that is wanting to be reproduced, taken from the patient themselves – placed inside a 3D printer accompanied by microgel. Without microgel inside of the printer, the bioink would settle and clump together, since the ink is alive and needs food, oxygen and water. The microgel is full of vitamins, proteins and other compounds to keep the bioink alive.
The printer prints the organ one layer of cells at a time, and then the organ is removed from the printer and incubated in a lab so that the bioink becomes living tissue that can carry out the functions it needs to, and then it can be implanted into the patient through surgery.
Bioprinting is a new technique that can be used in dentistry and brings many advantages with it. It is much cheaper and less time consuming than organ transplants, and in rural areas, can be used without patients having to travel to large hospitals and dentists in order to receive treatment. Additionally, since the bioink is made up of the patient’s own cells there is less of a chance of rejection from the body of the patient, and so the method is less dangerous and more effective
It is still a new technique and isn’t fully developed, especially in the use of dentistry. However, doctors in the Netherlands have already bioprinted a jaw for a patient with a chronic bone infection made from bioceramic-coated titanium, making the future of bioprinting hopeful and bright.