One of the most interesting applications of 3D printing is bioprinting.
However, 3D bioprinting is currently limited by the lack of efficient hardware and software. Bioprinters in use today are simply modified 3D printers. If organ bioprinting is to become a reality, all these hurdles have to be overcome.
Many of these technical problems have been solved, thanks to Advanced Solutions’ BioAssemblyBot (BAB), a six-axis 3D bioprinter, and its accompanying software, Tissue Structure Information Modeling (TSIM).
A Leap in Bioprinting Technology
BAB and TSIM were unveiled by Advanced Solutions on 1st August 2014. Advanced Solutions is a private biotechnology company in Louisville and has been pushing for breakthroughs in biotechnology since its establishment in 1987.
As the idea of 3D bioprinting became popular in the first decade of 21st century, Advanced Solutions gave the task of designing a bioprinter to Dr. Stuart Williams and his colleagues. The result of their efforts was BioAssemblyTool (BAT), a very advanced 3D bioprinter, released in 2007.
As advanced as BAT was, it was still deficient on the software side and instructions had to be manually entered in the form of code language, a very tedious and time-consuming process. Katie, an intern at Cardiovascular Innovation Institute (CII), took months to just understand and code for the BAT. These problems have been solved by BAT’s successor, the BioAssemblyBot (BAB).
The most important improvement that BAB brings over BAT is in the software department. TSIM, a CAD program that takes all manual coding out of the process accompanies BAB. Instructions are given simply by making a 3D model of the tissue on a computer screen and the TSIM handles the rest. Dr. James Hoying, the Division Chief of Cardiovascular Therapeutics at CII and an important collaborator in the creation of BAB, explained its usefulness by giving Katie’s Example:
“Katie has spent half the summer just understanding and scripting up and doing this. Now if Katie can do that in half a day, I can do more biology, I can do more experiments. I can explore new cell combinations… (in the same time) with the BAB and the TSIM, I would have finished a handful of experiments.”
Thus, BAB was the result of extensive collaboration between Advanced Solutions and CII to realize their dream of organ printing by improving the hardware and software available for 3D bioprinting.
How BioAssemblyBot Works
Curious how the latest 3D bioprinter works? Well, it all starts with TSIM. As already mentioned, it is a CAD software for biology. The user simply has to design a 3D model of his desired tissue on a graphical interface, using a variety of powerful tools provided in TSIM. A major advantage of using TSIM is that it allows more precision and control in tissue design than most competing software solutions.
After this computer design is complete, the data is translated by TSIM to BAB.
Using several laser sensors, BAB moves its arm first to the storage rack containing syringes and picks up the appropriate syringe (containing cells to be assembled). Next, BAB lays down the contents of the syringe in the printing area, layer after layer, to fully materialize the design that the user entered in the TSIM. Starting at $159,995, BAB is one of the Cheapest and Most Advanced Bioprinters available in market today. Describing the unique capabilities of BAB, Dr. Stuart Williams says:
“TSIM and BAB provide investigators and practitioners unparalleled capabilities to design and fabricate biological constructs that mimic natural human tissue.”
The whole process from making a computer design using TSIM to printing out a Fully Functional Heart Valve using BAB is demonstrated on Advanced Solutions YouTube channel in an enchanting video.
Prospects of BioAssemblyBot
Michael Golway, the CEO of Advanced Solutions, summarized the benefits of BAB in the following words:
“We are able to treat Biology as an Information Technology with the BioAssemblyBot/TSIM innovation, and as a result we will realize the next stage of exponential growth in performance of fabricated biological tissue structures.”
So, with BAB/TSIM the advancement in biology has become the same as advancement in technology.
With every new technology incorporated in BAB and every new version of BAB, 3D bioprinting will advance by leaps and bounds.
We know that technology advances exponentially. So, BAB will act as a sort of bridge between the exponential curve of advancement in technology and advancement in bioprinting making sure that the goal of organ printing is reached as fast as possible.
The time saved in coding by TSIM can be used to conduct new experiments and try new combinations of cells and tissues. This will also ease the path to create fully functional combinations of tissues in the form of organs.
Finally, a very important benefit of BAB is that it focuses on being affordable. Bioprinting, which was considered a field exclusive for the multi-million dollar companies, has now become accessible to small companies as well. If this trend continues, the day will soon arrive when hospitals, departments and even private doctors will be able to afford a 3D bioprinter. This, in turn, will help to bring bioprinting from fancy laboratories to the common man.
A World with Bioprinted Organs
Bioprinting promises to revolutionize medicine completely. If printed organs become a reality, the prospects won’t just help patients of end stage heart, kidney and liver failure, but they’ll extend to every person on the planet. Humans will be able to live longer, healthier lives because they’ll be able to replace damaged parts of their bodies immediately.
BAB and TSIM from Advanced Solutions is a huge step in that direction. Let’s hope that their efforts succeed in realizing a world where 3D Printers for Medical Use are in the reach of every man.
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