Regenerative Medicine Utrecht

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3D Printing in Medicine – 5 Years Later

5 years ago, Jetze Visser, Ferry Melchels, Wouter Dhert and Jos Malda wrote about ’tissues from the printer’ in the Dutch magazine Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (NTvG).

Click here for the original article (in Dutch).

In summary, complex structures could be created with a 3D printer based on a digital blueprint. Since this blueprint can be made through

imaging techniques from the patient, personalized applications became possible. Individually printed metal implants or plastic supports have already been used in the clinic, albeit on small scale. Researchers in regenerative medicine were also going one step further by printing a combination of cells, growth factors and biomaterials. This process is called ‘bioprinting’. With this, the complex organization of a natural tissue that is needed to repair or replace damaged tissue can be further simulated. However, before ’tissue from the printer’ could be used clinically, the technique must be optimized and more knowledge was needed about the development of printed living constructs into functional tissue.

Now, Jetze Visser, Ferry Melchels, Harrie Weinans, Moyo Kruyt en Jos Malda wrote about the advances of the last 5 years.

Click here for the original article (in Dutch).

In summary, surgeons are increasingly making use of the possibilities of 3D printing, especially in preparation for operations in patients with a complicated anatomy. Based on tangible 3D models, surgeons can better prepare the operation and discuss this with the patient. They can also use 3D models as training tools for young surgeons. Permanent titanium implants are increasingly being printed.

Bioprinting, on the other hand, is still in its infancy and has no direct clinical applications yet. As predicted 5 years ago, many hurdles still have to be overcome for the broad clinical application of bioprinted products. Currently, this technology is being used to develop robust in vitro models, for example for predicting drug-induced liver damage. A step towards in vivo models has recently been made by fully restoring fertility in sterilized mice using a biopsied ovary.

What will the future bring in the next 5 years? Stay tuned!