Biofabrication: The Next Frontier in Tissue Engineering

In the MIT Essential Knowledge Series on Biofabrication, it is confirmed that a combination of naturally sourced and lab-created biological material can drastically change the biological creation of tissue. It has remained an emerging area of research over the last two decades. Biofabrication is primarily used in tissue engineering and regenerative medicines and facilitates the automated manufacturing of biological products from raw materials like biomolecules, living cells, biomaterials, etc.

Biofabrication can be easily understood with the simple example of automated screen brightness in smartphones. With the help of sensory inputs that precisely detect the brightness of the environment, a smartphone can dim its brightness. However, if the phone’s screen cracks, it can’t repair itself like the human body. It is because smartphones are not built with living cells or tissue like humans.

Biofabrication through nanotechnology and 3D bioprinting opens immense possibilities in tissue engineering and regenerative medicines. Traditional techniques for tissue manufacturing were inefficient in producing intricate tissues that could easily meld with the human body.

While speaking at the Biofabricate symposium organised by Biocouture, researchers and members of the synthetic biological community of SyncBioBeta spoke about automation, deskilling, and removing the possibility of biological unpredictability in tissue engineering. The researchers also concluded that “Biofabrication is successful in producing and secreting anonymous pigment particles; the challenge in tissue engineering is to find them and transfer these molecules into tissues or human cells.”

Human Tissues on a Chip

A wave of advanced biological technologies allows biomedical engineers to use organs-on-a-chip models. It was recently used by Sangeeta Bhatia, a biomedical engineer at Brigham Women’s Hospital, who developed a liver-on-a-chip model using human liver cells. This model demonstrated efficacy in representing the human lever in both healthy and diseased states.

In the study field of biofabrication, the organ-on-chip model adds new possibilities to tissue and other biomedical engineering by developing different submodels. The recent advancements in this category are kidney chips, lung chips, brain chips, and more.

Biomaterial: A Mechanical Support for Biofabrication

As per the Science Direct study, 3D bioprinting will be the next frontier in fabrication in the next decade. Various bacterial species, when mixed with various biolinks, produce complex materials. This biotechnology shows great potential in tissue engineering due to its ability to detect toxic chemicals, oil spill fillers, and wound dressings.

Biomaterials are another profound part of biofabrication, which offers mechanical support in encouraging cell adherence and imitating the natural extracellular matrix. These biomaterials used for electrospinning have a significant impact on the physical characteristics of the nanofibers. The strategies employed in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine depend on the ongoing development of biomaterials.

Imitate Extracellular Matrix (ECM)

An ECM, an essential component of stem cells, regulates cell behaviour. It not only anchors but also regulates epithelial cells in tissue engineering. Biofabrication at an advanced level can mimic ECM and generate new tissue or cells with less dependence on natural human cells.

In an article in IOPScience, researchers clearly demonstrated that mimicking the biochemistry and biomechanics of native ECM is crucial for controlling the proliferation and differentiation of human cells and tissues. The role of fabrication has increased in the last five years and is used in various applications to reduce the gap between naturally formed and biotech-backed human cells.

Notable Advancement in Biofabrication

The evolution of biofabrication in the last 20 years has brought advancements in the processes of degenerative medicine and the tissue engineering segment. A team of researchers and bioscientists at MIT study new bioink materials and try to find improvements in 3D bioprinting methods. It aims to generate human-like tissue by blending advanced technologies like AI with 3D bioprinting. The progress in this area is being accelerated with the partnership of top academies, including Harvard, with industrial and healthcare organisations.

A Challenging Road Ahead

Tissue engineering, backed by modern biofabrication, also has several obstacles to overcome. One of the major ones is scalability, which is difficult in the absence of vital resources for constructing complicated organs.

On the other hand, the long-term survival and performance of tissue generated by biofabrication depend on integrating neurons and blood vessels, which vary for every human being. To overcome all these, a strategic approach is needed from the end of bioscientists and top organisations utilising biofabrication.

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