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5 Applications of Bioprinting in Pharmaceutical Industry

  • Pragya Soni
  • Apr 07, 2022
5 Applications of Bioprinting in Pharmaceutical Industry title banner

“The pharmaceutical industry is an industry driven by new products, by value-added products coming out of research and development.”

-- John Reeve


Agreeing to the above statement, we all know that the pharmaceutical industry is the soul of medical sciences. Just imagine the benefits of therapies without involvement of drugs, or workout and exercises without nutrition. 


From nutrition to essential drugs, from paracetamol to corona vaccination. Everything related to health and medicines is tied to pharmaceutical industries.


And, these pharmaceutical industries are further backed up by the latest technologies and research. Continuous research and regular innovation in the pharmaceutical industry are essential to balance the wheel. Recently, several newer technologies have been employed during pharmaceutical manufacturing and process.


For consideration, big data, IoT,  AI, 3D printing, bioprinting, and real-time sensors are the latest innovation that has been employed by the pharmaceutical industries. These technologies together have uplifted pharmaceutical industries from the traditional drawbacks.


Bioprinting is a technique that has been used to print drugs and artificial organs. Quite similar to 3D printing, bioprinting has some different specifications in it. In this blog, we will study the role of bioprinting in the pharmaceutical industry.



What is Bioprinting?


Bioprinting is a process fusing medicines and technology. It is an additive manufacturing process. Similar to 3D printing, bioprinting is specific for manufacturing biological materials. Bioprinting process uses a digital file as a blueprint to print the cells and organs.


Bioprinters are used to print cells and biomaterials creating organ-like structure. The technique has huge benefits for medicines and skin industries. The three steps involved in bioprinting are as follows:


  1. Pre-printing: The process acts by creating a digital file for the printer. Such files can be scanned and read by printers and are prepared by undergoing CT and MRI scans.


  1. Bioprinting: Bioprinting is the major step for the process. In this process, different types of cells and organs are printed using bioinks and equipment.


  1. Post-printing: The last and final step of bioprinting is to do the crosslinking and check the stability of the model developed. The crosslinking is done by ionic solutions or UV light.


Also Read | Bioprinting and its Applications


Bioprinting Equipment


The first 3D printer or bioprinter was first developed in 2009. It was developed by Organovo and Invetech in collaboration. The most recent progress is done by L’ Oreal, a skin brand working to develop human skin to test cosmetics.


These bioprinters contain human ink which contains human cells. As they print a human cell it is further multiplied to form tissues, and tissues further multiply to form organ and organ cells. Thus, they are used to print and create biomaterials.


The basic components of bioprinting system are as follows:


  1. Designing software


  1. Modern hardware


  1. Ink containing human cells


The ink can involve materials like cell lines, collagen, gelatin or polyethylene glycol. Software is used to translate machine command into computer action. The goal of bioprinters is to personalize dosages and diffusion profiles for every individual.


Also Read | IoT in Pharmaceutical Management



Applications of Bioprinting in Pharmaceuticals

Applications of bioprinting in pharmaceutical industry:1. 3D manufacturing2. Personalized medicines3. Tissue and organ models4. Organ on chips5. Control the supply chain

Applications of bioprinting in pharmaceutical industry

The advantages of bioprinting and 3D printing are versatile and infinite. It is not limited to the manufacturing of tablets only. In fact, bioprinting has been also used for the manufacturing of miniature cellular models. We have a precious blog showing how 3D printing or printing is used to create organ mimicry.


Bioprinting in last days have reduced the animal testing models as now the different drug and chemotherapeutic tests can be performed on artificial organs. It is faster and cheaper as compared to other technologies. Bioprinting has brought revolution to the medical field.


Bioprinting is the latest invention in the medical and pharmaceutical field. It is defined as a procedure used in creating cell patterns. These cells and tissues are further used for drug and organ construction. In the biological field, bioprinting is used for printing complex biological elements.


Bioprinting is also used for curating surgical models. These models are used to perform demo operations and surgeries. The technology is also used for creating molds for titanium plants, dental crowns, bridges, cranial implants and prosthetics for amputees.


Also Read | Self Healing Robots



Advantages of Bioprinting


The key advantages of bioprinting and 3D printing are mentioned below:


  1. 3D Manufacturing


Bioprinting is used for 3D manufacturing of Security alarms and systems to help in early detection of the crimes and records, thus reducing the chances of risks and frauds. The early detections prepare the public and others to take necessary precautions. Spritam is one of the most common examples in this regard.


Spritam, the first 3D drug is printed by binding medications layer by layer. It is prepared without compression, punches, or dyes. The drug product has far better ADME than the other drugs, and is loaded with several advanced characteristics.


The key qualities of these drug products are better dissolving power, and can be prepared by conventional manufacturing. Thus, making the product a blessing for dysphagia patients. Also, the drug can take any desirable shape making it more convenient for the patients.


Over the time, all we could expect is that 3D printing replacing the traditional drug manufacturing system. It is expected to create differentiated and unique drug products in the medicinal world.



  1. Tissue and Organ Models


Another advent of bioprinting is the creation of tissue and organ models. It uses cellular matrix and other support materials for framing organ models. Recently, purified keratin proteins are utilized to prepare wound healing and tissue generation products.


Bioprinting has sufficient potential to print organs that can be used for manufacturing miniature organs. These miniature organs are further used for testing purposes. One such example is creation of preeclampsia and placenta models. 


It is used for research studies and further comes up with the conclusion, how the tissue helps in transportation of water and minerals. Miniature organs are also used for drug testing. Recently using bioprinting experimental heart valves have been manufactured. And, the FDA has approved cell-based cartilage generation. 


In the coming days, we can expect a whole pumping heart generated using AI and bioprinting.


Adding further, these miniature organs work similar to the real organs. Even tiny organs such as teeth and jaws would be cheaper than the existing traditional techniques. This whole technique can enrich the pharmaceutical industry with a new level and benchmarks.


Also Read | Emerging Technologies in Healthcare



  1. Personalized Medicines


Another important advantage of bioprinting is personalized medication. Each body, each human has a different response to the drugs. Though, the majority of the population responds similarly to different diseases and drugs but still there are some fluctuations in them.


These fluctuations arise due to different factors such as age, gender, and medical history. Most of the time, the tolerance of different sets of people to the same drug is observed differently. And, bioprinting helps in developing personalized medicines serving the needs of each and every individual.


Using a patient's cell, science helps in understanding the individual characteristics of the patients. This data is further used to design the best treatment option available for the patients reducing the cost investment and risk factors too.


Till now this application has been applied for the treatment of complex diseases like Cancer and Alzheimer. And the most important of this has been applied only to the critical cases where there was no other option. The motto behind personalized medications is to develop the right drugs for specific subtypes.



  1. Organs on Chips


Another important variable of bioprinting is organ on chips. Organ on chips as the name suggests are tiny sized systems. These micro sized organ systems are fitted on a chip and mimic the functions of human biology.


Composed of tiny channels lined with human cells, bioprinting and 3D printing are employed to create the fake environment of the organ. These organ chips are used for creating organs like lung, liver, intestine, kidney and brain.


These organ chips can perform vital functions like blood pumping, capillary cells process, and kidney functioning. The principle of organ chips is the modification of force on both sides of the chips. For example, in the cases of lungs, force on either side of the channel stretches and helps the chips to mimic the organ environment.


The organ on chips reduces the medical expenses, for example it may reduce the need of animal testing for preclinical phases of a drug. At the same time, the technique is expected to reduce the overall time required for pre-drug testing and research. In general, it takes almost a decade or two and millions of dollars for launching a drug for public use. 



  1. Control the Supply Chain


Another advantage of bioprinting of drugs is that it controls the supply chain of drugs. For a successful pharmaceutical industry, it is essential to regulate the demand and supply chain to meet the market trends.


Bioprinting affects the supply chain by easing on demand production, local manufacturing, creation of unique and individualized products. 3D printing and bioprinting has localized the drug market with low-volume production and increased speed.


If 3D printing and bioprinting are uniformly set across the world, it can keep the price of dosage form similar in different countries and can make the possibility of setting a drug manufacturing unit even at the remotest corner of the world.


But till the date bioprinting has not hit the benchmark that’s why it hasn’t brought the commercial revolution it has been supposed to. The sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients and industrial restrictions are some limitations in the process.


Also Read | Emerging Technologies in Healthcare


As listed above the common applications of bioprinting are drug development, wound healing, and artificial organs.


Apart from these technical advantages another important aspect of bioprinting is that it saves animals and their lives. Hundred of innocent laboratory creatures are killed and tortured every year for preclinical studies of drugs, though logically correct, but this is definitely invalid ethically.


Biocompatible with 3D drug printing, bioprinting is still at its infancy across the globe. The field is newer as compared to other traditional techniques. Still the emerging field has innovative power to bring revolution in the pharmaceutical sector. 


In the coming times we can imagine a world, where no animals are killed for human and clinical purposes and the days when formulating a new drug for the benefit of mankind isn’t a costly and complex process.

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