Some days, we think that some of this stuff is being pulled from the latest science fiction movie. But then, thankfully, we’re reminded that this is just where science is taking us, and we are lucky enough to get gadgets like 3D printers out of it. We’ve witnessed 3D printers create things like rubber tires and a solid chassis, but what we’ve got next is, truth be told, pretty much mind boggling.
At the University of Missouri, scientists utilizing the Organovo NovoGen printer have created the first “printed” human vein. Yes. A vein. This is leading up to getting rid of those artificial means that we implement in surgery at the moment, which can be more toxic to the body than helpful. As you can imagine, the printer its designed to create an entire portion of the body, which means that we don’t have to depend on a donor, or another part of your own body to get the job done anymore. The printer will, for all intents and purposes, create one for you. It does this by using the cells from a single part of the body, along with something called “bio-ink,” which works as a sort of “holder” to make sure that the cells inside the new item stay together. A computer of far more sophistication than the one we’re typing on right now is then connected to the printer, and maps out the full 3D image that the cells and bio-ink are going to recreate. From there, the printer lays down two dimensional images over one another, until they’ve created the full three dimensional product.
While working for a full heart, or liver, or kidney is still a ways away, the science has proven that this is indeed viable, and not an impossibility any longer. The science of regenerative organs means that we won’t be at the mercy of donor lists, or have to have plastic or metal pieces put in our bodies any longer. The use of healthy cells means the implications are endless: no more using veins from another part of your body to fix a problem somewhere else. It can all be done with just a 3D printer, some bio-ink, and healthy cells. Let’s hope this starts seeing the light of day sooner than later.