The Huck Institutes of Life Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA; Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA; Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Despite the numerous lives that have been saved since the first successful procedure in 1954, organ transplant has several shortcomings which prevent it from becoming a more comprehensive solution for medical care than it is today. There is a considerable shortage of organ donors, leading to patient death in many cases. In addition, patients require lifelong immunosuppression to prevent graft rejection postoperatively. With such issues in mind, recent research has focused on possible solutions for the lack of access to donor organs and rejections, with the possibility of using the patient's own cells and tissues for treatment showing enormous potential. Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting is a rapidly emerging technology, which holds great promise for fabrication of functional tissues and organs. Bioprinting offers the means of utilizing a patient's cells to design and fabricate constructs for replacement of diseased tissues and organs. It enables the precise positioning of cells and biologics in an automated and high throughput manner. Several studies have shown the promise of 3D bioprinting. However, many problems must be overcome before the generation of functional tissues with biologically-relevant scale is possible. Specific focus on the functionality of bioprinted tissues is required prior to clinical translation. In this perspective, this paper discusses the challenges of functionalization of bioprinted tissue under eight dimensions: biomimicry, cell density, vascularization, innervation, heterogeneity, engraftment, mechanics, and tissue-specific function, and strives to inform the reader with directions in bioprinting complex and volumetric tissues. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: With thousands of patients dying each year waiting for an organ transplant, bioprinted tissues and organs show the potential to eliminate this ever-increasing organ shortage crisis. However, this potential can only be realized by better understanding the functionality of the organ and developing the ability to translate this to the bioprinting methodologies. Considering the rate at which the field is currently expanding, it is reasonable to expect bioprinting to become an integral component of regenerative medicine. For this purpose, this paper discusses several factors that are critical for printing functional tissues including cell density, vascularization, innervation, heterogeneity, engraftment, mechanics, and tissue-specific function, and inform the reader with future directions in bioprinting complex and volumetric tissues.