Friday, March 21, 2014

3D Print Organs

As you know I've been a fan of 3D printers since their inception. Recently they've went from being machines used by engineers and hobbyist, to become a life saving medical device.

In the last few years scientists have been able to create new skin, eyes, ears, tracheas, bladders, and other body parts by utilizing 3D printing technology. The field is called Bio-printing. Like other forms of 3D printing, Bio-printing lays down multiple layers of organic material (living cells), to form a solid mass of human tissue. This tissue is used to replace damaged skin or any of the other aforementioned body parts.

In the past doctor had to create artificial organs utilizing a scaffolding method combined with living tissue. This method was successful but slow in comparison, 3D-printing technology. Bio-Printing with 3D printers is twice as fast and it utilizes computer-guided precision in printing living tissue. The Bio-Printing field has pushed the boundaries of regenerative medicine. 

The San Diego-based Bio-printing company Organovo is planning to unveil the world's first 3D printed human liver this year. Other companies are racing to be the first to print other organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys. This technology will save thousands of people waiting to die on the transplant list.

Recently a man from Wales named Stephen Power made international headlines when he got into a serious motorcycle accident, which left him disfigured. Half his face was so damaged that he had to hide it behind dark sunglasses. Doctors measured the necessary bones and structure then printed out the parts to rebuild his face with a 3D printer

There was a similar case where a man had to remove a tumor from his face and ended up having half his face cut off, leaving a gaping hole. His face was also reconstructed with 3D technology. Watching how Bio-printing works reminds me of the med bay in the movie Elysium. A machine that can rebuild any damaged tissue including bones and organs. Check out their stories below.

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