3D Printing and Bioprinting Revolutionizing Healthcare

3D bioprinting is one of the most anticipating and promising technological advancements of all time. According to the US National Library of Medicine, 3D bioprinting is “a manufacturing method in which objects are made by fusing or depositing materials—such as plastic, metal, ceramics, powders, liquids, or even living cells—in layers to produce a 3D object” (Ventola, 2014, para 2). Is With the capability of using real cells, 3D bioprinting will make it possible to create living tissue. This will help build real organs and skin cells. Sometimes, in certain situations, researchers and doctors can also use regular 3D printing for skeletal support. In a 2018 surgery, a group pediatric surgeons from Georgia Institute of Technology used a 3D printed tracheal splint to assist a 7-month-old child to breathe (Toon, 2018, para 1).

The team was able to make multiple different test splints at a low-cost rate because of the inexpensive materials used. Other ways 3D bioprinting could save someone’s life is the organ crisis. According to UNOS database, “on average 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant (Data, 2018, page 1). 3D printing can fix this issue by scanning the organ and making a specific match for that patient. Another way 3D printing can help is prosthetics. According to e-NABLE contributors from the US department of health and human services, “3D-printable prosthetics are changing the face of medicine, as engineers and physicians are able to develop prosthetics that are fully customized to the wearer.” (e-NABLE, N.D, page 1). With the use of 3D printing, Prosthetics will become more customizable, comfortable, more appealing to the wearer, and have more flexibility. 3D Bioprinting will revolutionize health care in the future because it will provide a new form of skeletal support, help the organ shortage crisis, and also improve the use of prosthetics.

The most important way 3D bioprinting will revolutionize healthcare is that it could solve the organ crisis. By solving the organ crisis, it is potentially helping one of the largest medical crises in the US, kidney disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “More than 661,000 Americans have kidney failure. Of these, 468,000 individuals are on dialysis, and roughly 193,000 live with a functioning kidney transplant” (Kidney Disease Statistics for the United States, 2016, para 3). If 3D bioprinting was available to these patients, then the number of those on Dialysis would decrease immensely. Not only would the number of patients on dialysis decrease, but also the need for donors, as well as, the number of patients on the UNOS transplant list. 81.3% of the UNOS list consists of patients waiting for a new kidney; This means that there are 95,249 patients worldwide hoping for a new kidney (Waiting list candidates by organ type, 2015, page 1). This is just one way 3D bioprinting will help solve the organ crisis.

Another large impact it would have would be lowering the death rate of transplant patients. As previously stated, the amount of deaths of patients per day who are waiting for an organ is around 20. For kidney patients specifically, it takes around 3-6 years to get a new kidney donor (The Kidney Transplant Waitlist, 2016, para 10). With the use of 3D bioprinting, it is possible to take real cells and turn it into ink form. When the cells are being printed, they eventually grow into living tissue. These tissues can be specified for certain organs like livers, lungs, Pancreases, Hearts, and Kidneys. So if it is able to help organs, what else can it help?

An equally important way that 3D bioprinting will revolutionize healthcare is by providing a new form of skeletal support. Like stated before, 3D printing can massively help support bones and at a low cost. Approximately 6 million Americans break a bone each year (Aids for One Armed Tasks, n.d., para. 2). With the use of 3D printing splints, supports, braces, and even replacement bones can be created. Visual representations are used for students to examine and learn from. Although that is already a thing, with 3D printing you can get visual insight for each cavity and vein without needing it to be handmade. 3D printing for bone cancer is also very promising. A technique would be to replace the part of the bone with the tumor with a 3D printed structure.

Ultimately defeating the tumor before it spreads farther or deeper (3D printing of high-strength bioscaffolds for the synergistic treatment of bone cancer, 2018, para. 1). Another great benefit for our skeletal system is the patching of skull fractures, cracks, or holes. For an example, if someone were to get in a car accident and break their cheekbone, or if someone were to have a sport-related injury and crack open their skull, 3D printing would be the best, cheapest, and most effective option to choose. We already have that technology now, but 3D printing will be able to enhance the structure of it. It could be lighter in weight, and thinner. If the damage done to the skull exceeds just the roundness and perhaps travels into the eye socket or nose, 3D printing would be the better option because it would be the fit the exact measurements and fit more flush with one’s skull (Bone Machine: 3D Printing is Revolutionizing Plastic Surgery, 2017, page 1). Finally, doctors could bioprint a mock up a face of what someone would look like after reconstructive surgery (Jeffrey Spiegel, 2016, para. 1).

Lastly, 3D bioprinting will improve the use of prosthetics. 3D printing even expands to prosthetics and is extremely beneficial to it. One of the main benefits of 3D printing across all fields is the cost efficiency. People are usually afraid of the expenses of prosthetics due to how much they really do cost (Advantages of 3D printed Prosthetics, 2018, para. 2). Although, with 3D printed prosthetics, the materials are cheaper, and the manufacturing process is way faster. A 3D printed limb could be made within a day, but traditional prosthetics, the process could take up a few days, weeks, or months. Also, with traditional prosthetics, there can be a wait list just like organ transplants that will just add to the production time (Advantages of 3D printed Prosthetics, 2018, para.3). Another issue with prosthetics is the amount of time you can use it. When children with missing limbs grow up, they are just like any other child, they grow. So with children, a prosthetic can only last 3 years (How Long Will a Prosthesis Last? n.d., para. 1) While an adult prosthetic still would only last 5 years.

Customization for prosthetics is very important for most patients to most people too. It needs to fit perfectly and be able to function the way they want it. It can even get down to the color if they want. When a patient is consulting with the doctor they can provide the color, look, and fit of the prosthetic. The materials are also able to be changed too (Advantages of 3D printed Prosthetics, 2018, para.4) 3D printed prosthetics has already been approved and is being used in multiple applications every day in the world of prosthetics. It will only get better from here because of technology advancing every day. In the near future, we will have full bionic limbs that will be just as capable if not more capable than the average limb.

Generally speaking, 3D printing and bioprinting will do great things for the healthcare field in the upcoming future. Not only could this advancement solve the organ crisis, but also bring hope for patients everywhere. 3D printing and bioprinting could also bring a new wave of skeletal support for patients. On top of that, it can provide help towards plastic surgery, rehabilitation, and prosthetics. Doctors and researchers still have a long road ahead of them before 3D printing and bioprinting is completely perfected. But, when it is perfected, the healthcare field will improve greatly.

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