When is a bioink not a bioink?
With interest in bioprinting continuing to soar, research focussed on new strategies to develop “printable” materials (a previously identified progress-limiting factor in the field) has been ever-growing. In recent years, the fabrication and assessment of new materials suitable for bioprinting has gained increasing attention, and with it the term “bioink” has become ubiquitous. As the number of bioinks on the market continues to grow an important question to consider is, does the term “bioink” mean the same thing to everyone?
In a recent special issue of Biofabrication dedicated to bioinks, the increasingly divergent definition of the term “bioink” is precisely the focus of an interesting article from a group of world-leading experts in the fields of bioprinting and biomaterials. The authors give a brief history of the evolution of the term, from its origins in describing cells being printing on/in a hydrogel “biopaper”, to its more recent division into multiple subcategories including support bioinks and fugitive bioinks. They suggest that these more recent classifications are unnecessarily complicated and, highlight that these are derived from the definition of the associated biomaterials, which may not necessarily need to be considered when defining a bioink.
The authors ultimately propose that bioinks should be defined as ‘a formulation of cells suitable for processing by an automated biofabrication technology that may also contain biologically active components and biomaterials.’ Thus, to call something a bioink it should contain cellsand should be considered distinct from (bio-)materials that can be printed and subsequently seeded with cells after printing, which the authors suggest should be termed “biomaterial inks.”
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