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3D PRINTING AND BIOPRINTING: Shaping the future of humanity and the future of medicine

By: Dr. Elton Gómez, a specialist in regenerative medicine.

Do you remember the old dot matrix printers, the ones that had to be loaded with continuous paper, with perforations on the sides, that were noisy, expensive, and very slow, and that at the end of each print, you had to manually cut each sheet following the perforations made in the paper? These printers gave way to the modern inkjet printers and laser printers, which are quieter, faster, and less expensive in comparison.

At the moment, 3D printing, which allows making complete parts with various materials, from plastic, PVC, to even metal, is at the same level as the old dot matrix printers, basically, it is “do it yourself” technology that allows anyone to assemble their own 3D printer, upon receiving a kit, and design piece by piece in a specialized program.

Thus, technology has already taken a step forward, or rather a step in another direction, through the so-called “bioprinting”, which instead of using inorganic materials, uses materials that are or promote life, such as extracellular matrix, scaffolds of collagen, and in some cases, living cells, is also technology that is “in its infancy” so to speak, but that has already had some great successes, such as the printing of custom-made heart valves, to replace damaged valves, bone, or even replace or add bone to fractures with loss of bone mass, or scaffolds to create blood vessels in a laboratory.

Likewise, “ordinary” 3D printing, which uses non-living materials, can be used to print implants that function as blood filters, implantable valves for cases of hydrocephalus, functional prostheses, in combination with other disciplines such as robotics and cybernetics.

This technology is promising in the future, imagine that in the future we do not have to wait for a transplant, but that a kidney can be printed directly to a laboratory or a heart made with a microscopic framework and cells from the same patient, that is what awaits us but we can already see glimpses of this reality in various aspects of our lives.

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