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 3D Bioprinting Information Resources poster
Evolving Terminology for Emerging Technologies
Comments? Questions? Revisions? 
Mary Chitty MSLS
Last revised July 10, 2019

3D Bioprinting Information Resources

Mary Chitty, MSLS, Library Director & Taxonomist, Cambridge Healthtech, 
Presented at BioIT World 2015

ABSTRACT 3D printing in the life sciences encompasses medical devices, dental implants both for prototyping and personalized for individual patients. Live cell and tissue printing is now used to produce “organs on a chip” for drug screening. 
Eventual biofabrication of organs is still nascent.

Organs-on-chips at the frontiers of drug discovery, Eric W. Esch, Anthony Bohinski and Dongeaun Huh, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 14:248- 260, April 2015 doi:10.1038/nrd4539

Relevant terms include 3D printing, additive manufacturing, biofabrication, bioprinting, bioinks. Related concepts include biomimetics, hydrogels, microfabrication, microfluidics, scaffolds and spheroids.

Biomaterials glossary & taxonomy

can be defined as the production of complex living and non-living biological products from raw materials such as living cells, molecules, extracellular matrices, and biomaterials. Cell and developmental biology, biomaterials science, and mechanical engineering are the main disciplines contributing to the emergence of biofabrication technology. The industrial potential of biofabrication technology is far beyond the traditional medically oriented tissue engineering and organ printing and, in the short term, it is essential for developing potentially highly predictive human cell- and tissue-based technologies for drug discovery, drug toxicity, environmental toxicology assays, and complex in vitro models of human development and diseases. In the long term, biofabrication can also contribute to the development of novel biotechnologies for sustainable energy production in the future biofuel industry and dramatically transform traditional animal-based agriculture by inventing 'animal-free' food, leather, and fur products.  Biofabrication: a 21st century manufacturing paradigm. Mironov V et al. Biofabrication. 2009 Jun;1(2):022001. doi: 10.1088/1758-5082/1/2/022001. Epub 2009 Jun 10.

Using cells, proteins, biomaterials and/or other bioactive elements as building blocks to fabricate advanced biological models, medical therapeutic products and non-medical biological systems. Scope note, Biofabrication, IOP Publishing

bioprinting: A material transfer technique used for assembling biological material or cells into a prescribed organization to create functional structures such as MICROCHIP ANALYTICAL DEVICES, cell microarrays, or three dimensional anatomical structures. MeSH 2013

New manufacturing technologies under the banner of rapid prototyping enable the fabrication of structures close in architecture to biological tissue. In their simplest form, these technologies allow the manufacture of scaffolds upon which cells can grow for later implantation into the body. A more exciting prospect is the printing and patterning in three dimensions of all the components that make up a tissue (cells and matrix materials) to generate structures analogous to tissues; this has been termed bioprinting.  Printing and prototyping of tissues and scaffolds. Derby B. Science. 2012 Nov 16;338(6109):921-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1226340

PubMed growth of articles 2005-2014                2005-2014 4,576% increase


Association of 3D printing

International Society for Biofabrication

A major journal is Biofabrication, IOP Publishing

Other articles appear in Advances in Health Materials, Wiley, Lab Chip, Royal Society of Chemistry and scattered in bioengineering, biomaterials, nanomedicine, nanoscience, tissue engineering and other journals.


3D printing, Penton

Prototype Today

Unlike plastics, where the interior of printed objects is less important, 3D printing of cells or tissues demands attention to the extracellular matrix scaffolds and vascular system.

AutoDesk, Organovo partnership

 Key Technologies:
Microfluidics, lasers, nanotechnology.
 Key organizations:
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University

Wyss organs-on-chips

Organovo, San Diego

Bioprinting companies to watch, Stem Cell Assays 2014

3D bioprinting information resources are scattered. The field is developing quickly, is highly interdisciplinary and technical. Knowledge of specialized vocabulary terms is important for effective literature searching and reference interviews.

What are your go-to resources? 

Thanks to Michael Drues, Vascular Sciences; and Geraldine Hamilton, Wyss Institute for their helpful talks and discussions.


How to look for other unfamiliar  terms

IUPAC definitions are reprinted with the permission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

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