Bioprinting

1  Bioprinting-Cartilage

Bioprinting (neologism, buzzword)

n. The use of 3D printing technology with materials that incorporate viable living cells, e.g. to produce tissue for reconstructive surgery. Example: “welcome to the age of bioprinting, where the machines we’ve built are building bits and pieces of us” (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/bioprinting).

Etymology: The word bioprinting can be broken down to bioprinting. The prefix bio- is derived from  Greek bios which means life (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bio-). Print is a Middle English word which originally meant the impression made by a stamp or seal in the mid-14th century, then changed to mean to set a mark on any surface by the late 14th century. It is derived from Old French preinte meaning pressed from Latin premere meaning to press (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=print). The suffix -ing is from Old English -ung or -ing originally from Germanic origin and is used to make this word a gerund.  The earliest example of bioprinting is from 2002 when scientists printed a functional kidney, then with refined technology in 2010 the company Organovo printed a blood vessel (http://health.howstuffworks.com/medicine/modern-technology/3-d-bioprinting1.htm). The term bioprinting seems to have been coined by Dr. Forgacs who invented and named the first commercial bioprinter. The technology was invented in 2004 and patented in 2009, so the word was likely first used between those two dates (http://organovo.com/about/history/).

Sociolectal Information: Bioprinting is a less well-known word than 3D printing, however the concept behind both of these words is known by the general public. Bioprinting has been in the news lately in two separate cases: one where a man successfully had his face reconstructed with bioprinted cells, and one where a woman unsuccessfully transplated a bioprinted uterus into her body. These popular news stories have made 3D printing a well-known word in most social circles, so I expect that both students and faculty alike would know of the concept behind bioprinting. The word itself remains less well known because it is so specific and new. Most people simply refer to the news stories as the 3D printing of organs or cell, rather than bioprinting. Thus, most of campus will know the concept behind the word, but possibly not the word itself. One example of bioprinting’s prevalence on campus is that in my biology class we are studying an organism with regenerative powers. My professor said regeneration is an important field to study to discover more about why bioprinted organs may be accepted or rejected by the body, as demonstrated in the two news stories. When my professor asked if anyone had heard of the concept of bioprinting, most students indicated that they had, and those who hadn’t quickly learned from the lecture. Therefore, bioprinting is well known on campus by both students and professors alike. It is possible that science students will be more likely to know the term due to class discussions and a greater attention paid to science news stories. Bioprinting specifically touched the William and Mary community when David Shaw visited campus to receive the Cheek Medal. David Shaw worked with Organovo, one of the first companies to use bioprinting. Thus, in 2013, just a few years after bioprinting was invented, it was already present on the William and Mary campus.

Survival Predictions: I believe that the word bioprinting will survive to describe this technology because it is both easy to use and easy to understand. The prefix bio- is well known and understood, as well as the word printing. Thus, this term can be pieced together by most people to figure out the denotation of bioprinting, making it very useful. This fact leads me to believe that in the future, the term biorpinting will not be replaced by any other word to describe this technology. Further, I believe its usage will increase as the technology is refined. Despite the fact that the uteran transplant failed, scientists will likely work out the kinks in this technology and make it a successful method of organ and tissue regeneration in the future. For instance, it is hypothesized that kidney regeneration could be complete in 10 days. Many people who need kidney transplants die every day due to a shortage of donated organs. With bioprinting, those lives will not be lost, demonstrating the power behind this new technology. As bioprinting becomes a more common and successful method for rehabilitation, it will become a more popular and well-known word. Thus, I believe this word will survive in the sense that it will not be replaced, and I believe it will thrive as it will be used more frequently in the future.

Lexopinions: Bioprinting as a word seems very fitting to me, as it denotes the printing of biological specimen. To me, it has almost a futuristic feel to it, like something out of a Science Fiction movie. This connotation is fitting, though, as the technology behind the word is unbelievable. Printing organs seems like an impossible task, and yet science has reached that point and continues to move forward. When I use this word, I feel excited and impressed because I know the huge implications this technology can have for the lives of those in need of an organ or tissue transplant. Thus, in my opinion, the word bioprinting seems to fit its meaning and has positive connotations behind it. One interesting debate around the word is that some believe this technology represents humanity chasing immortality– if organs can always be replaced, how will one die? Those who disapprove of bioprinting for this reason, though, still believe that it has benefits and simply wish to put legal restrictions on it so that it may only be used in life threatening emergencies or for research purposes. Here is an essay describing that debate: http://ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Tran_Final.pdf. I believe that immortality is not an issue, as the technology is expensive and will not be available to most of society. On the other hand, the downside to the price is that it may drive a wedge between the middle and upper class because only the upper class will have access to bioprinting. Perhaps the most useful legal restrictions for this technology would ones that prevent bioprinting from being used excessively and exclusively by the upper class.

Below is an interview with a William and Mary freshman with an interest in science:

Above is an interview with my roommate, a Public Policy major, on the debate about immortality:

Comments

  1. This is such a well-written, thorough post. I’m really glad I got to learn what this concept is because I agree that the technology, and following that the word, will thrive. Your presentation of this term was great, because you were very informative about the extension of 3-D printing, which most people know, to bio-printing. The immortality debate is very interesting too, it reminds me a lot of the controversy surrounding genetic modification and how many people are hesitant to pursue research out of fear that people will want to genetically modify and essentially “customize” their future children. Nevertheless, I think this word is super important in the science field and this post really showed that.

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