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What I Learned From Attending The Annual 3D Printer World Expo

What I Learned From Attending The Annual 3D Printer World Expo

3D Printer World ExpoSince the annual 3D Printer World Expo was being held this year at Seattle, (more specifically Bellevue, WA) I bought tickets to attend the expo and listen to the speakers talk about the revolution that is taking place right at this time, which will revolutionize the world in the coming decades to come.

The event was being held from August 22-23, 2014 which concluded tonight. I decided only to attend the conference the first day, and talk with all of the people at the exhibits to see how far they have come along in being able to develop products for medical application.

There was three main reasons why I decided to attend.

First, I realize that the revolution of 3D Printers is going to bring about a paradigm shift in the form of a disruptive technology, similar to how the company Uber is trying to transform the taxi service industry. It is absolutely critical to keep up with the real edge of what is going on in the world today. At the expo, I was able to try out the Oculus Rift that people in the tech world have all been going crazy for, with the people from Prizmiq.

Second, I wanted to see who is already trying to create biocompatible implantable hyaline cartilage, by combining the fields of tissue engineering and stem cells, for what I believe will be the real revolution for our endeavor.

Third, I have started to go into research on the developing technology of turning humans into androids/cyborgs. I have already jumped on the BioHacking bandwagon, promoting the idea set forth by David Asprey, but I feel like there is much further we can go to integrate the electronic world with the biological world.

I took pictures, got free stuff, and talked to people who are in the industry who are promoting their businesses and products.

For our purposes though, I asked each of companies that was selling or promoting 3D Printers the question, “Are you guys selling 3D Printers that has the ability to print bio-compatible, in vivo implantable functional human cartilage?

Almost all of the companies I talked to said no, except maybe 1 company (Nytec). When I asked just how fine the filaments threads can get to in terms of accuracy in making these 3D Models, the smallest I found was around 7-8 microns, with the upper end being around 200 microns.

Here is some things which they did tell me which is being created.

PEEK BIo-Material (poly-ether-ether-ketone) – Unlike the PLA and the ABS type plastic extruded filament material that is traditionally used to make 3D models, there is a another material that is coming out known as PEEK Material. It has been used apparently for the last decade and has slowly had multiple variations/derivatives of the PEEK material made. Its various materials characteristics makes it the most attractive material to be used for in vivo implants. (Refer to study “PEEK Biomaterials in Trauma, Orthopedic, and Spinal Implants” or “In vivo biocompatibility testing of peek polymer for a spinal implant system: A study in rabbits“)

Organovo – This company I have done research before, and it seems like they are the main company to focus on. The people who organized the 3D World Expo when I asked them specifically named this company for 3D Printing Implantable Tissues. I originally referred to Organovo when I wrote about the possibility of using the biomedical practice of Bioprinting aka Electrospinning in the post “Increase Height And Grow Taller Through Bioprinting And Electrospinning“. On the company website, they state the following…

“…Our 3D bioprinted human tissues are constructed with precision from tiny building blocks made of living human cells, using a process that translates tissue-specific geometries and cellular components into 3D designs that can be executed by an Organovo NovoGen Bioprinter. Once built, the bioprinted tissues share many key features with native tissue, including tissue-like cellular density, presence of multiple cell types, and the development of key architectural and functional features associated with the target native tissue.”

RegenovoRegenovo – This seems to to be China’s answer to Organovo. From the 3DPrintersIndustry.com website, they say that the China based Regenovo is still about 15 years away from being available to the average patient. It is a type of”…medical grade 3D bioprinters that is still under development and showing promising results“. The researchers at Regenovo have already been able to bioprint out a fibrocartilage based ear type tissue, as well as potentially also noses.

Since Regenovo is already able to print out nose and ear structures in about 1 hour!!, they should be able to re-create the chondrocyte column like structure that is found in the epiphyseal hyaline cartilage which can be a mass-produced synthetic growth plate which can be popped into a bone resection to lengthen the bone. The researchers are from some university in Hangzhou and are working with Independent Intellectual Property Rights (IIPRs). The developer named Xu Ming-en is able to create a 4-5 inch wide ear cartilage part within 1 hour already using the regenovo 3d bioprinter.

From the website 3DPrinterWorld.com website, what we are seeing is that along with Organovo & Regenovo, there are labs in Universities around the world like Wake Forest, Cornell, and the University of Iowa who are all working on very similar areas of focus, aka cartilage and spinal disc regeneration.

Taulman3D.com – This company supposedly got a FDA approval also a day ago for using their implantable nylon based material for medical applications.

Selective Laser Sintering (aka SLS) – This is a type of way of 3D Printing method based on using a laser to add more material on the object you are trying to shape and form. Currently, I know very little about this type of manufacturing technique, although it seems to be one of the manufacturing industries most common approaches to making parts.

One company I talked to say that SLS might be able to be used to make implantable parts. I forgot which one though by now.

However, what I have noticed is that due to the nature of the filament (aka raw materials) you are heating up and extruding through the extruder head, these materials like the most two types of filament material, PLA and ABS just can’t be used for medical application, since they would poison the person who tried to put the thermoplastic either in their body or on their skin. Now, there are many, MANY, companies right now who are using 3D Printers to build and make prosthetics, (like for instance Coyote Design & Mfg based in Idaho) by making bone like-tissue which will be placed along the skin but very few companies have been able to succeed in printing things that would work okay inside the human body.

Here is something I didn’t realize maybe months ago when I was writing about the possibility of using 3D Printers to print out our own internal organs. Currently, there is maybe about just 2 dozen types of materials that you can use as the raw material in the filament to make the models and shapes that you want. Here are some of the most common types…

  • ABS
  • HIPS
  • PLA
  • PVA
  • TPE

What to take away from it all… 

I have been trying to combine all of the areas/fields that I am interested in and doing research on into one. So far, that has led me into the field of 3D Printers and finding the right type of collagen/scaffold configuration to create new cartilage tissue.

It has already been shown by at least 2 sources that making a 10 cm wide piece of fibrocartilage layer is already possible, taking just around 1 hour. I am wondering just how hard would it be to turn that ear/nose piece already made in multiple university labs around the world into hyaline cartilage and make the type of functional implantable cartilage that can expand and make our bones grow volumetrically. Not too hard I suppose.

If the researchers really wanted to, they would be able to get the new growth implant implantations available for the general public’s use within maybe just 3-5 years if they actually put all their effort and focus into it.

To end this post, I give you a vision of what will almost definitely come about in the future, with the forward being presented by former Lucasian Professor of Cambridge, Dr. Stephen Hawking, on how medical breakthroughs have allowed him to live and function beyond the years expected of him when he was first diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease decades ago.

Increase Height And Grow Taller Through Bioprinting And Electrospinning

A big idea that is going around regenerative medicine circles now with the 3-D Printers that have been coming out is the idea of printing one’s own organs and body parts for use in transplantation.

The idea of bioprinting and electrospinning has been getting bigger and bigger in the last 2 years. What I am proposing in the year 2013 is that one day within the next 30 years we will be able to take a small cartilage or pluripotent stem cell sample from a person and be able to completely create a good sized growth plate completely regenerated for a person ready to be implanted.

This would result in people being able to choose to regrow again making them taller and taller.

When I typed in the phrase “Bioprinting” into Google the first result they gave me was of a company named Organovo, which has a tagline of “CHANGING THE SHAPE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH AND PRACTICE”. From their front page…

Organovo creates living, three-dimensional human tissue models for research and therapeutic applications

The flexibility of our bioprinting technology, which marries biology and engineering, and its proven application across a wide variety of cells, allows us to target many different tissues for development of human tissue models.

We are currently building a number of 3D tissue models for research and drug discovery applications, and well as working to fulfill our vision of building human tissues for surgical therapy and transplantation.

Under the Therapeutic Tissues section…

3D Human Therapeutic Tissues – At Organovo, we believe that engineered tissues will someday be a routine source of therapy for patients with damaged or diseased tissue.

Changing the Shape of Medical Practice – Organovo is working to fulfill the vision of building human tissues for advanced surgical therapy and transplantation.

Today, we are working, both internally and with select partners, to fulfill our vision of building human tissues for surgical therapy and transplantation. The flexibility of our tissue engineering technology, and its proven application across a wide variety of cells, allows us to target many different tissues. The cell source can be either allogenic or autologous (using the patient’s own cells), which could allow us to avoid transplant rejection and the need for life-long immunosuppresant drugs.

Significant science and discovery is required to develop a tissue therapy, ensure safety and efficacy through controlled clinical trials, and gain regulatory clearance as a medical device. Supplemental tissue therapies that could come in forms of tubes, patches, or organoids are a developmental possibility today. Larger replacement tissues remains a future goal; however, the insight gained through the development of supplemental tissue therapies can serve as key guideposts for the ultimate development of functional organ replacements.

The promise for tissue therapies that cure disease, with reduced risk of immune rejection, made on demand from cellular building blocks rather than waiting for a limited supply of donor tissues, is a vision we are passionate in pursuing.

I showed in a recent post that university researchers have been able to grow a growing bone with it’s epiphyseal growth plate cartilage being completely functional. This shows that by combining the fields of stem cell therapy and tissue engineering, the growth plate can be regrown using the initial stem cells, an external growth factor stimuli, and a scaffold to hold the two main parts in place ready for implantation. This company Organovo has the potential to make a real big change in the way physicians and surgeons have been practicing medicine.

Just like how the inventor Eli Whitney managed to create the idea of Interchangeable parts for machines and guns leading to the revolution of factories, specialization, systems, automation, and mass production of everything becoming one of the main causes of the Industrial Revolution, this new technology of being able to print in 3-D the tissue and organs we will need means that maybe one day humans will be looked as less as a single entitle but as a combination of organ systems which can be kept alive by just replacing the parts that go bad, old, or not working.

From the section on Bioprinted Human Tissue

Organovo’s proprietary bioprinting platform captures the unique synergistic potential of engineering and biology to enable the reproducible, automated creation of living human tissues that mimic the form and function of native tissues in the body. Our 3D bioprinted human tissues are constructed with precision from tiny building blocks made of living human cells, using a processthat translates tissue-specific geometries and cellular components into 3D designs that can be executed by an Organovo NovoGen Bioprinter™. Once built, the bioprinted tissues share many key features with native tissue, including tissue-like cellular density, presence of multiple cell types, and the development of key architectural and functional features associated with the target native tissue.

Organovo’s 3D human tissues offer many advantages over standard cell-culture platforms due to the fact that three-dimensionality is achieved without dependence on biomaterial or scaffold components that would not be found in native tissues.

We are not immortals and we are not superheros like Superman and Wolverine. Gods have bodies that don’t age or get ill. Superman has the power to be invulnerable against everything except Kyptonite. Wolverine can be hurt and injured but his body has insane cells which can heal any wound within minutes, if not seconds. Maybe one day we can develop soem type of technology, where all we have to do is take a gun with some medical light and shine it on a part of our body to solve all medical problems. Before that can come to be, the next best thing is the idea of having the ability to grow our own body parts, for fast surgery transplantations? Need a new liver, kidney, or pancreas? Let’s grow that for you in the lab?

For our situation, we don’t have any more growth plates so what do we do? We extract a little bit of cartilage and chondrocytes, and grow them into adult sized growth plate cartilages and transplant them into the leg. That means that we can start the longitudinal growth of the bones again.

Here is a video below of one of the founders of the company Gabor Forgacs who is giving a TEDTalk about his company’s technology.

For a better read on the subject of bioprinting refer to the article from a website called Explaining The Future

I would also like to the refer the reader who is mainly interested in using this technology for the cosmetic reason of potentially increasing their height this picture I found from another source/ article talking about the exploding, new hot biomedical field of 3-D Bioprinting research. Refer to the picture below. Notice that the picture on the researchers from Wake Forest University shows that they have been able to recreate the outer ear. That is cartilage. This shows that scientists have already been able to create cartilage nearly from scratch by using the bioprinting machines.

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