Biofabrication is an evolving research field that has recently received significant attention. In particular, the adoption of Biofabrication concepts within the field of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine has grown tremendously, and has been accompanied by a growing inconsistency in terminology. This article aims at clarifying the position of Biofabrication as a research field with a special focus on its relation to and application for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. Within this context, we propose a refined working definition of Biofabrication, including Bioprinting and Bioassembly as complementary strategies within Biofabrication.
The current tissue engineering paradigm is that successfully engineered thick tissues must include vasculature. As biological approaches alone, such as VEGF, have fallen short of their promises, one may look for an engineering approach to build microvasculature. Layer-by-layer approaches for customized fabrication of cell/scaffold constructs have shown some potential in building complex 3D structures. With the advent of cell printing, one may be able to build precise human microvasculature with suitable bio-ink. Human microvascular endothelial cells (HMVEC) and fibrin were studied as bio-ink for microvasculature construction. Endothelial cells are the only cells to compose the human capillaries and also form the entire inner lining of cardiovascular system. Fibrin has been already widely recognized as tissue engineering scaffold for vasculature and other cells, including skeleton/smooth muscle cells and chondrocytes. In our study, we precisely fabricated micron-sized fibrin channels using a drop-on-demand polymerization. This printing technique uses aqueous processes that have been shown to induce little, if any, damage to cells. When printing HMVEC cells in conjunction with the fibrin, we found the cells aligned themselves inside the channels and proliferated to form confluent linings. The 3D tubular structure was also found in the printed patterns. We conclude that a combined simultaneous cell and scaffold printing can promote HMVEC proliferation and microvasculature formation.
Recent advances in organ printing technology for applications relating to medical interventions and organ replacement are described. Organ printing refers to the placement of various cell types into a soft scaffold fabricated according to a computer-aided design template using a single device. Computer aided scaffold topology design has recently gained attention as a viable option to achieve function and mass transport requirements within tissue engineering scaffolds. An exciting advance pioneered in our laboratory is that of simultaneous printing of cells and biomaterials, which allows precise placement of cells and proteins within 3-D hydrogel structures. This advance raises the possibility of spatially controlling not only the scaffold structure, but also the type of tissue that can be grown within the scaffold and the thickness of the tissue as capillaries and vessels could be constructed within the scaffolds. Here we summarize recent advances in printing cells and materials using the same device.
Biofabrication holds the potential to generate constructs that more closely recapitulate the complexity and heterogeneity of tissues and organs than do currently available regenerative medicine therapies. Such constructs can be applied for tissue regeneration or as in vitro 3D models. Biofabrication is maturing and growing, and scientists with different backgrounds are joining this field, underscoring the need for unity regarding the use of terminology. We therefore believe that there is a compelling need to clarify the relationship between the different concepts, technologies, and descriptions of biofabrication that are often used interchangeably or inconsistently in the current literature. Our objective is to provide a guide to the terminology for different technologies in the field which may serve as a reference for the biofabrication community.
With the advantages of high throughput, digital control, and highly accurate placement of cells and biomaterial scaffold to the desired 2D and 3D locations, bioprinting has great potential to develop promising approaches in translational medicine and organ replacement. The most recent advances in organ and tissue bioprinting based on the thermal inkjet printing technology are described in this review. Bioprinting has no or little side effect to the printed mammalian cells and it can conveniently combine with gene transfection or drug delivery to the ejected living systems during the precise placement for tissue construction. With layer-by-layer assembly, 3D tissues with complex structures can be printed using scanned CT or MRI images. Vascular or nerve systems can be enabled simultaneously during the organ construction with digital control. Therefore, bioprinting is the only solution to solve this critical issue in thick and complex tissues fabrication with vascular system. Collectively, bioprinting based on thermal inkjet has great potential and broad applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. This review article introduces some important patents related to bioprinting living systems and the bioprinting in tissue engineering field.
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