Development of the 3D printing area is currently one of the main strategic R&D&I endeavours at the Biodonostia HRI.

A patient-specific 3D printed model of a tumor in the chest wall

In line with the situation at other health research institutes and hospitals, the Biodonostia HRI has decided to promote a Multidisciplinary Unit on Bio-models, Bio-inks and 3D Bioprinting. This Unit will encompass the activity already carried out at the Donostialdea IHO on bio-model printing, together with a new development in the area of bio-inks and 3D bioprinting. Development of the 3D printing area is currently one of the strategic R&D&I endeavours at the Biodonostia HRI.

The introduction of 3D technology to the biomedical field has two main areas of application. On the one hand, the creation of bio-models, understanding as such modelling of the disease (mainly tumours) in order to improve surgical approximation and patient operating times, as well as to personalise prosthetic implants. On the other hand, the bioprinting of cells and tissues for their use in approximations based on regenerative medicine.

The use of plastic models enabling an exact 3D replica of the characteristics of each patient’s tumour has a number of advantages, such as improved planning of surgery before proceeding, improving trust in the most suitable surgical approximation, shorter operating times and a possible improvement in the customised adaptation of prostheses and implants to each patient’s anatomy. In turn, the patient obtains an improved visualisation of their pathology and better understanding of the risks associated to the operation, thereby improving their trust in the medical team and reducing their anxiety in relation to the operation. In recent years the bio-models area has acquired considerable development in our environment thanks to interaction between the Thoracic Surgery Service of the Donostia University Hospital (DUH), now the Donostialdea Integrated Health Organisation (Donostialdea IHO), the X-ray Diagnostics Service, also belonging to the Donostialdea IHO, the San Sebastian School of Engineering, the Tknika Vocational Education Centre in Errenteria (Gipuzkoa), and other actors, having already gained position as one of the national benchmark units in this field. Translation to the clinic is now a reality, with 36 models having been designed and dispatched to 23 national hospitals, added to which are another 19 models designed for this particular Service and for other Hospital services.

On the other hand, the bio-ink and 3D bioprinting development area is less developed, having been limited until now to the pioneer initiative of the IHO Ear, Nose and Throat Service, leading to the acquisition and setting in motion of a 3D bioprinter at the Biodonostia HRI thanks two Bottom Up projects corresponding to the Operating Contract (granted by the Ministry of Health’s Provincial Delegation for Gipuzkoa). To strengthen this area, new equipment has been acquired, financed thanks to the Medtech initiative (promoted by the Presidency of the Basque Government and the Ministry of Health, through the Innovation Fund). Projects are also being set in motion with the focus on different pathologies in the areas of oncology, urology and surgery.

The intention on creating this new Unit is to promote the two 3D printing areas, formalising and intensifying the collaboration between biomedical professionals in different branches, engineers and vocational education technicians (VE). Furthermore, the creation of a Platform/Multidisciplinary Unit constitutes an opportunity to provide the service to other national healthcare centres and in so doing to multiply returns on the investment, also favouring competitiveness of the Institute researchers in regard to obtaining European funding.