AAT Bioquest

Can tissues be 3D printed?

Posted January 7, 2022


Yes, tissues can be 3D printed.

3D printing or 3D bioprinting is a specialized form of additive manufacturing used to print living structures layer by layer using cells and other biocompatible materials known as bioinks.

3D printing begins with a model of a structure that may be obtained from a computer generated design program, CT or MRI scan, or a file downloaded from the internet. A layer-by-layer 3D replica of this model is recreated out of bioink mixed with living cells and then fed into a specialized computer program known as a slicer. After analyzing the geometry of the 3D model, the slicer generates a series of thin slices, which form the shape of the original model when stacked up vertically.

The slices are converted into path data and sent to a 3D bioprinter for printing as a g-code file along with precise instructions regarding extrusion pressure, bed plate and extruder temperatures, and crosslinking frequency and intensity. The print is finished when all g-code commands are completed.

3D printing has diverse applications across all biomedical fields from enabling the development of systems for more efficient drug delivery to the development of sugar stents to help surgeons join veins with fewer complications. In the pharmaceutical field, 3D printing offers a means to test drugs faster and more cost-effectively.

3D printing of tissues is still evolving. It is projected that soon it will be possible to use an individual’s own cells to 3D print bone and skin grafts, organ patches, and even full replacement organs.

Additional resources

3D Bioprinting Methods and Techniques: Applications on Artificial Blood Vessel Fabrication