Here’s an idea worth considering. Medical researchers have long been manually recreating human cells right down to the addition of blood vessels, skin tissues and other living parts of the body. However, producing full scale organs with the same cell structures by hand is something that is far more challenging and so far has had limited results.
3D printers offer precision
This is where 3D printers come into play. Able to precisely manufacture objects, the 3D printer can recreate the vascular systems that make it possible for organs to operate. Scientists have already started to produce small strips of organ tissue and are working on the development of complete human organs that can be surgically transplanted. Although the result is still years away, we are getting there.
The hardest part of the process for these bio engineers is working with biological materials that can be easily damaged and can easily dry out.
3D printers can work with bio materials
Although printing a human organ such as a kidney may seem like something from another world away, the field of bio printing holds a great deal of promise for many scientists, doctors and patients. It could also be important for animals that would then be able to escape the unpleasant vaccine testing that they are sometimes required to do for the sake of human medicine.
The way that bio printing works is like this. Scientists will collect human cells either from taking biopsies or from using stem cells. They are then allowed to multiply in the petrie dish. The resulting ‘biological ink’ is then used by the 3D printer to be arranged into body parts with different shapes. Scientists are hoping that these cells with then be able to integrate and establish themselves with existing tissues.
Successful usage is already happening
Successful use of this so far has seen a 2 year old in the US receive a windpipe that was constructed with her own stem cells. There is also an experiment underway where tissue samples are taken from the heart and other organs. These are then place onto a microchip with a connection of blood substitute. Specific tests will be used to monitor how effective different treatments are.
It’s likely that bio printed organs will be so expensive that only the wealthiest will be able to afford them. There’s also the ethical question of whether we should be ‘playing God’.
Watch this space to continue to read about the latest in 3D printing technology.