Complex structures based on a digital blueprint can be created using a 3D printer. As this blueprint can be created using patient imaging data, there are many potential patient-specific applications of 3D printing in medicine. Individually printed metal implants and synthetic devices are currently being used on a limited scale in clinical practice. Researchers in the field of regenerative medicine are now going a step further by printing a combination of cells, growth factors and biomaterials. This process is known as ‘bioprinting’. It can be used to copy the complex organization of natural tissue required to repair or replace damaged tissues or organs. The technique needs to be optimized, however, and more knowledge is required regarding the development of printed living constructs into functional tissues before ‘tissue from the printer’ can be clinically applied.
Conflict of interest and financial support: disclosure forms provided by the authors are available along with the full text of this article at www.ntvg.nl; search for A7043, click on ‘Belangenverstrengeling’ (‘Conflict of interest’).