You forgot to feed your gerbil. In the middle of the night, it escapes its cage and gnaws off your ear. Who you gonna call? Your local 3D print shop. It'll run off a perfect copy of your ear in no time flat.
This is the kind of futuristic scenario that Cornell University's Hod Lipson and colleagues have been painting while discussing "bioprinting" at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
Bioprinting refers to the practice of using 3D printing to make biological tissue such as skin, bone, and cartilage.
The technology has been around for two decades, but researchers recently began using it to create biological structures. The idea is to make custom-designed tissue and organs from a patient's own cells, perhaps eliminating the need for donated organs.
Companies like Organovo are already developing bioprinted blood vessels, which will be essential for artificially grown organs.
"The next big thing and next logical step is [the] development of robotic methods of functional human tissue and organ bioassembly," Vladimir Mironov of the Medical University of South Carolina wrote in a meeting abstract. Mironov has been trying to grow meat in his lab for a decade.
One study has shown how tissue engineering was used to repair a calf's femur. Printing organs such as livers could be next. … Read more