The Biofabrication Process

Stu Jacobson of DEKA discusses the impact biofabrication will have on the future

The Stages of Biofabrication

Biofabrication is an aspect of regenerative medicine that refers to the production of human tissues from organic and synthetic sources.

There are four stages of the biofabrication process to explore:

  • Cell Culture & Harvest

  • Scaffold Fabrication

  • Tissue Maturation & Bioreactor Culture

  • Packaging, Preservation, & Transport

A vital aspect to every stage of the biofabrication process is automation. Biofabrication relies on automating the manufacturing process in order to produce human tissue at a larger scale.

Interview: Dean Kamen discusses manufacturing in biofabrication
Dean Kamen explains why manufacturing is an integral part of biofabrication

Automation in Biofabrication

As the biofabrication industry grows, the importance of automated manufacturing will greatly increase.

Scientists, researchers, and doctors have discovered how to create human tissues in the lab. Now it is up to engineers, manufacturing technicians, and industrial workers to mass-produce them.

The goal of using automation in biofabrication is to mass-manufacture organs and make sure they are available to the thousands of people who need them.

The Four Stages

Cell cultures being harvested with a syringe on a lab bench
Photo credit: Istock by Getty

Cell Culture & Harvest

Cell culture and harvest is the process of growing living cells in a lab environment or extracting specific cells from human or animal tissue.

This stage includes:

  • Cell banking

  • Expansion culture

  • Cell harvest and wash

A bioprinter printing organic tissue onto a round scaffold

Scaffold Fabrication

Scaffold fabrication is the process of creating structures that support the growth of living cells. 3D printing is most often used to create the structures.

A human ear growing in a culture substrate
Photo credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Tissue Maturation & Bioreactor Culture

Tissue maturation and bioreactor culture is the process where tissues are grown on scaffolds in a sterile, controlled environment to become a usable product.

This stage includes:

  • Tissue assembly

  • Tissue maturation

A surgeon carrying a metal container labeled "Human organs for transplant"

Preservation, Packaging, & Transport

Preservation, packaging and transport are the processes where the tissue products are safely moved from a controlled growth environment to the patient.

This stage includes:

  • Preservation

  • Packaging and storage

  • Transport to patient