In an era plagued by low quality medical care and extensive waits for organ transplants, newly developed 3D bioprinters could prove to be a saving grace for many. Able to generate skin, bones, muscle, cartilage, and blood vessels, the devices are showing promise in treating burn victims, repairing damaged muscle, and producing functional internal organs.
By using stem cells from bone marrow and fat tissue, which are then differentiated into various types of cells using specific growth mechanisms, the machines employ a 3D scanner, which determines the depth and area of the wound.
Still in early developmental stages, the printers, which initially will be used by scientists and bioengineers before being made more widely available, will at first only produce skin, muscles, and short blood vessels. While the printers show immense promise, one of the challenges will be creation of functional organs able to be transplanted and integrated into the body, as well as addressing controversies surrounding the use of stem cells, intellectual property rights, and regulatory concerns.
3D bioprinting hints at the vast possibilities of technology in saving lives, improving human health, and even the possible creation of more humane sources of meat and leather products – helping feed and clothe a rapidly growing planet.
Julie Bort, “Biotech Firm: We Will 3D Print A Human Liver In 2014,” Business Insider, December 27, 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/organovo-3d-print-human-liver-2013-12.
Liat Clark, “Bioengineer: The Heart is One of the Easiest Organs to Bioprint, We’ll Do It in a Decade,” Wired.co.uk, November 21, 2013, http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-11/21/3d-printed-whole-heart.
Andras Forgacs,”The Bio-Printing of Leather and Meat: A More Cultured Choice,” TEDx Marin, October 2, 2013, http://www.tedxmarin.org/2013-speakers/andras-forgacs.
Lucas Mearian, “Bio-Printing Human Parts Will Spark Ethical, Regulatory Debate,” Computer World, January 29, 2014, http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9245834/Bio_printing_human_parts_will_spark_ethical_regulatory_debate.
Student Researcher: Nick Moore (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)