AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: bioprinting

Printing More Than Just Pictures

3-D printing is an increasingly accessible technology that is bringing manufacturing into the home. Now these marvels of technology are being used in medicine. With children growing rapidly, expensive prosthetics are not an option for most families. Customized 3-D printed prosthetics are becoming more common and are helping out these families by making prosthetics less expensive.



3-D Printed Prosthetic Hand

Usually, 3-D printers only print hard material such as plastic and metal. This is very useful while creating bone replacements and customizable prosthetics, but is not ideal for printing organic tissue.

Bioprinting, or the printing of organic tissues, is a rising and feasible option in medical treatments. This advance would be a huge improvement to many practices such as medical testing and organ transplants. The ability to print organic tissue would eliminate the need for long donor list that many people wait on, but never receive an organ. With bioprinting doctors would be able to test their medicine on organic human tissue rather than animals. This all may sound like science fiction, however it is happening right now.

Carnegie Mellon recently bought a commercial 3-D printer for around 1,000 dollar and after some modifications began to print soft materials. Associate professor at Carnegie Mellon Adam Feinberg and others have developed a way to print soft materials in-expensively. The main problem with printing soft materials is the prints would collapse on the weight of itself. To prevent this the researchers at Carnegie Mellon created a process they now call FRESH (Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels). In this process the nozzle prints with a gel inside a petri dish filled with a supportive gel. Then they heat up the petri dish and the supportive gel melts away leaving the print.

As this technology is open source and inexpensive, hopefully many patients will be receiving their very own custom printed organs soon.


Original Articles:

More Information:

Bioprinting the Body


This image depicts a collection of pharmaceutical drugs, such as those that might be tested on the “bodies on a chip”. Source: 


Tiny 3-D-Printed Organs Aim for “Body on a Chip”

By Jeremy Hsu and LiveScience

Source: Scientific American (

Scientists have recently begun developing a series of 3-D printed “bodies on a chip” that could replace animal and cell testing in the future. These “bodies” consist of a series of mini-organs- chunks of tissue from various organs that have been 3-D printed out of layers of individual cells and connected with artificial scaffolding and blood/fluid channels to a electronic chip.  Tony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine explained the process as, “We’re printing miniature solid organs: miniature livers, hearts, lungs, and vascular structures. (. . .) The question is whether you can have a better system to test these drugs (.  .  .) [we] can bypass cell testing and animal testing by going straight to miniature organs.”   The chip inside the “body” measures its temperature, oxygen, pH, and other factors, enabling scientists to use these mini-organs to test drugs or see how the body might react to a disease.

The possibilities are endless! Bioprinting, and especially this type of bioprinting, is such an exciting concept because there are so many ways in which it can be utilized. First, this new use of bioprinting might enable scientists to better test the drugs we put into our bodies, skipping the steps of animal and cell testing all together and going right to an actual “body” without harming animals or people in the process.  Second, drug testing on “bodies on a chip” could help rapidly improve scientist’s ability to respond quickly to pandemics or bioterrorism attacks. Testing drugs in this manner not only allows scientists to see how a drug might affect one organ, but a whole system of organs, thereby making the whole process safer and more effective.

Questions For Further Discussion: What do you think?

In what ways is this development exciting? In what ways is it frightening? What do you think the future of modern medicine looks like? Does it include bioprinting in this way, or in any way?


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