As you read about 3D printing, 4D printing, bioprinting, and learn about any number of outrageous innovations coming forth at a fairly constant rate, you may wonder what the point truly is in some of these exercises and whether they will have a realistic impact. Some of the work going on in labs sounds amazing but also sometimes far-fetched, from scientists spinning capillaries on a cotton candy machine to researchers bioprinting liver tissue. The ultimate goal, however, is to begin fabricating organs for the most patient-specific care imaginable—and to eliminate long waiting lists where patients all too often die before receiving organs from donors.
Bioprinting is not always about reaching for the holy grail of replicating organs though, as evidenced by a recent study in Ireland where scientists have developed a method for making new bones. Funded by theScience Foundation Ireland at the AMBER Materials Science Centre, which is hosted at Trinity College Dublin, this work, amidst many other amazing projects they are working on, is meant to end the need in the future for bone grafts whether through autografting (moving the patient’s own bone material) or allografting (transplanting bone from a donor).
With millions of people each year in need of bone grafts due to cancerous tumors, complex fractures, and even head traumas or dental issues after tooth loss or extenuating issues, obviously a less painful, more successful, and affordable method in replacing complex bone defects would be welcomed by both patients and medical professionals.