3D Bioprinting Produces Unlimited Varieties of Human Organs and Tissues

From Trinkets to Brains

Back in the 1990s, Americans first heard in the media about capillary beds that were printed from simple computer printers, including printers made for home use.

In 2016, 3D computers could make practically anything. Home units were selling well and public libraries began offering a 3D printer and materials to the public with which to create toys, figurines, chess pieces, and large items.

Soon, we may be able to 3D bio-print all the organs and tissues needed to assemble a human or animal body.

Inkjet Blood Vessels

While we heard about printing out blood cells in the 1990s, it was not until 2002 that this notion was seriously addressed. If you recall, Professor Makoto Nakamura observed that small drops inkjet printer inks approach the size of human tissue cells.

The professor tinkered with inkjet printers until he has a technology in 2008 that was perhaps the first bio-printer. With it, he printed some bio-tubing that came out like a capillary. The world was on its way to bio-printing additional tissues and organs.

The Printed Capillary

Brain Replacements and Transplants Since the 1960s

The scientific world produced speculative remarks about human brain and head transplants during the summer of 2016. Too much of the public, this notion sounds like science fiction or rubbish. Still, some of the skeptics would like to preserve and use their brains as long as possible, perhaps even inside a new body. In the 2010s, we do not know yet whether this is possible.

During the early 1960s, Soviet Union scientists were experimenting with brain transplants and news of this came back to America, but was not widely disseminated in the media. A few schools received the information from visiting professors and Russian teachers. One experiment involved transplanting a portion of a dog's brain into a human brain, but the dog brain tissue died.

Little has been accomplished in brain transplantation worldwide to date, but brain human mapping is nearly complete. This may be a first step toward rejuvenating or replacing portions of damaged brains.


The human brain has been almost completely mapped and plans in 2016 called for 3D printing an entire such brain (Reference: Business Insider. July 20, 2016).

In speculative and science fiction, the author Cordwainer Smith (Professor Paul Linebarger) wrote of developing new brain tissues via melding of human and animal brains in his stories of the IOM (Instrumentality of Mankind). Written in the early 1960s, these stories may be based in the news of the Soviet brain transplant research.

The Italian scientist, Dr. Sergio Canavero, announced that he may be able to conduct a head transplant in 2017 for a willing Russian man. At the same time, bio-printing companies the world over seek to create viable brain tissues.

Regenerative Medicine Since World War II

Regenerative medicine is the study and practice of helping human beings replace or regenerate damaged or missing parts of their bodies.

In medical and biology classes, we heard of early regeneration studies in France in the 1940s during World War II. These were animal based studies conducted to determine how missing arms and legs could eventually be regenerated for human war victims.

To our knowledge, the closest the French came to complete regeneration is the scenario in which a rat's front leg was severed. A few toes grew on the stump of one rat at least, and another such rat reportedly grew a complete foot on the leg stump (analogous to the human shoulder). We have no documentation of reasons for the length of the leg not growing back between the "shoulder" and the new foot or toes.

After the 1940s, the French studies ended; but today, many nations are perfecting the regeneration of spinal nerves in humans. In addition, the scientists of these countries are perfecting not only prostheses for humans and animals - even dolphins - but perfecting ways of growing completely new organs from stem cells and other biological materials. One way of "growing" a new organ is to print it from a computerized printer in thin layers.

Not only can new tissues be printed in ever increasing sizes as the science evolves, but through using CT and MRI scans, medical scientists will soon be able to print individualized tissues that will fit the patient like a missing puzzle piece.


Leading Centers for Regenerative Medicine

>The Mayo Clinic: Arizona and Florida

>Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM): Research Triangle, North Carolina

>Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM)

>Massachusetts General Hospital

>The Ohio State University College of Medicine

3D Printer Developed in 1984

The term "1984" is the title of the famous novel of warning from George Orwell. It is also a year of many inventions. The Super Bowl ads of that year emphasized the new personal computers.

Later in 1984, the first 3D printer was developed for manufacturing applications. In several years, a simple personal PC printer was used to print out blood cells.

Charles Hull, a co-founder of 3D Systems, invented the 3D printer. The first organs were printed in this technique in Wake Forest, North Carolina in 1999. Today, the regenerative medicine program at Wake Forest Baptist Research and Teaching Hospital is part of the Biomedical and Bio-engineering Departments and Graduate Schools of Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University. Human and animal tissue and organ production and replacement are some of its top specialties.

Now we can print organs and purchase a 3D printer for home use on small projects. Some public libraries even have them, including the Westerville Public Library in Central Ohio.

Progress From 2009 to 2013

The first 3D printed blood vessel was made in 2009 and the first such human jaw was implanted in The Netherlands in 2012.


A toddler boy in Youngstown, Ohio received the first-ever biodegradable airway made by Michigan doctors out of special plastic particles and their 3-D bioprinter in 2012.


By 2013, Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, a plastic surgeon at Langone Medical Center in New York, had performed a face transplant for a firefighter, using 3D printed materials.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bones 3D printed around 2013.Artificial skin can be so sensitive that it can feel a butterfly landing. 3d printed natural skin will likely be able to do so.Facial parts have been sculpted by dentists for man years. 3D printers can do many of these tasks now.
Bones 3D printed around 2013.
Bones 3D printed around 2013. | Source
Artificial skin can be so sensitive that it can feel a butterfly landing. 3d printed natural skin will likely be able to do so.
Artificial skin can be so sensitive that it can feel a butterfly landing. 3d printed natural skin will likely be able to do so. | Source
Facial parts have been sculpted by dentists for man years. 3D printers can do many of these tasks now.
Facial parts have been sculpted by dentists for man years. 3D printers can do many of these tasks now. | Source

Top Rated Bio-Engineering Companies That Bioprint

Company Name
What Bioprinter Makes
Bioficial tissues via bio-ink: liver and kidney tissues
San Diego. Printed the first blood vessel.
Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
A multitude of different human tissues.
North Carolina
Cyfuse Biomedical/Regenova
Nerves, blood vesses, skin, several organs, eye tissues, bone, cartilage.
Tokyo and San Diego
Desktop bioprinters and bio-inks.
Stanford Univeristy
Artificial skin since 2010; embedded sesors send "touch" feeling to human brains.
Stanford, California
University of Toronto
Aspect Biosystems
Several human tissues.
Univeristy of British Columbia
3D Bioprinting Solutions
Organs, beginning with thyroid glands.
Russia and USA
South Korea
Breast tissue, heart and lung tissues, wound healing.
TeVido Nanodevices
Nipple tissue
3Dynamic Systems
Bone tissue and regenerative medicine.
Swansea University, United Kingdom
Modern Meadow
Bioprinting leather and meat.
Skull and jaw/face repair, female pelvic diaphragm repair, urethra repair, hernia repair, artificial skin, blood vessels, and ligaments.
Frankfurt am Main, GermanyChina

Dr. Gabor Forgacs's Work at Oraganovo

Life is the biggest mystery of our generation.

— Biobots motto

What is Your Opinion?

Would you consider receiving 3D printed tissues or organs in the future?

  • Yes, definitely - it would increase my healthy lifespan.
  • No, it sounds like science fiction or fantasy.
  • Undecided; I'd like to see developments in the next few years.
See results without voting

© 2016 Patty Inglish

More by this Author


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

Great hub and it is a reality. My daughter is a high school engineering student in a Governor's Academy and is working on a 3D hand prosthesis for a specific person, as are other students. It's incredible to see them put their knowledge into action at no cost to the recipient.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 weeks ago from North America Author

@FlourishAnyway - That is a miracle! Much success to your daughter, the other students, and the school and faculty. It is also gratifying to hear about people being helped at no cost.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 weeks ago

I've seen a few 3D printing creations and they are quite well done. I am amazed about the technology advancement in organs and tissues. I believe this would benefit many but would like to see more research and results. Thanks for the education, very interesting to read.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 2 weeks ago from North America Author

@teaches12345 - I think the inventions we are referencing would be a miracle for people who were exposed to health hazards through no choice of their own - like Tom Brokaw exposed to radiation as a child when the govt did nuclear tests, like people who were exposed to second hand smoke and pollution as children, like employees exposed to hazardous chemicals that lead to cancer (the newest of which would be the tar sands coming through the Keystone XL Pipeline). These people don't deserve to be sick. 9 days ago

These developments are interesting. We live in amazing time but progress with prosthesis certainly seem much more possible than head transplants.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 9 days ago from North America Author

Hi robertatalioni -- I just also saw a picture of a man who had a double arm transplant in Ohio (pretty neat!). Head transplants seem unwieldy and not sure to work, so that one will be hard to accept.

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