The first objects to be 3D-printed were rather simple: Parts, tools, and prototypes. But since its invention in the 1980s, 3D-printing has advanced tremendously, and it is now being used in biomedical settings where it has already proved quite useful.
Biomedical research can be limited by the common techniques at its disposal. Tissue culture, for instance, does not replicate the complex anatomy (architecture) and physiology (function) of an organ. 3D-printing, however, solves this problem by creating scaffolds on which scientists can build life-like organs for research. Amazingly, 3D printing has already been used to create miniature livers and kidneys. And a 3D-printed tracheal splint saved a baby’s life.
Additionally, 3D-printing also has been used to create “toy” model organs on which surgeons can practice before performing complex operations.
To learn more about the fascinating history of 3D-printing as applied to tissue engineering, we recommend this review by a team of biomedical engineers from Texas A&M University.