Although the technology is still very new, 3D printing is already promising to make huge advances in medicine. Using patients’ own skin cells as the “ink”, this process can allow doctors to print new tissue, organs and even transplantable skin for patients in need. This could be life-changing for patients waiting for organ donations and burn victims.
The technology works by using a MRI, CT or other 3D scanner to provide the dimensions for the tissue or organ that needs to be replaced. Computer software then determines how the cells need to be layered in order to exactly produce a copy of the original.
Although perfecting 3D printing for organs may still take several more years, a 3-D skin printer already exists that can deposit cells directly onto a wound to help it heal more quickly. Experimental knee cartilage, heart valves and bone implants are other human tissues that have already been printed using this method.
Freaky or cool?
Photo courtesy Bonnie Berkowitz and Todd Lindeman