A team of recent University of Pennsylvania graduates is behind the printer known as BioBot 1, a high-resolution 3-D desktop bioprinter that can build functional, three-dimensional living tissue. The primary objective of the device is to give research labs the chance to build living cells, which could expedite time spent on preclinical studies when experimenting with new treatments or pharmaceutical drugs and potentially eradicate medical experiments on animals.
“If we could somehow reveal the failures before testing drugs on people, we would be able to identify false positives much earlier in the drug development process,” Danny Cabrera, BioBots CEO and co-founder, told Forbes. “The problem is in animal testing — mice are not humans, and tests on animals often fail to mimic human diseases or predict how the human body responds to new drugs.”
The 3-D printing process follows three basic steps, starting with the creation of a computerized 3-D model of the tissue. The BioBot 1 printer chooses which “inks” to use, such as collagen, gelatin or other biocompatible materials used to replace or repair tissue. The printer then pushes the biomaterial out with the help of compressed air and constructs the tissue layer by layer.
While using the BioBot 1 for research is the main focus for now, Cabrera doesn’t rule out the printer’s potential for transforming the future of organ donation. Eventually, more complex tissues could replace damaged tissues in the human body, he says. It could even replace organs with a patient’s own cells and eliminate the wait for an organ donation — a setback that costs 18 lives each day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The printer is currently available for preorder on the BioBots website, starting at $25,000 for the general public — a bargain considering bioprinters from larger companies can cost upwards of $250,000, according to 3DPrint.com. Better yet, scientists, doctors, engineers or educators may purchase the technology for $5,000 once they qualify for the company’s Beta-testing program.
Learn more about BioBots at their website.
Top photo courtesy of BioBots’ Facebook page.