But what if the technology could print human organs and microfibers on a large scale?
Scientists are already printing tiny strips of living tissue, and they hope to print entire human organs as the technology grows in sophistication. In a process called "bioprinting," doctors could use isolated organs and tissue to test vaccines and other biological agents without worrying about harming animals or relying on inaccurate modeling programs. And the process, once perfected, could produce entire body parts for patient transplants.
According to CNN, 3-D bioprinting involves harvesting living cells from biopsies or stem cells before allowing them to multiply in a petri dish. Scientists feed this "biological ink" into a 3D printer that converts the cells into a 3-D shape that may integrate with existing tissue when placed inside of or onto a host body.
The world's zeal for 3-D printing will increase, as will the medical community's involvement. According to
Current applications hold promise, but some incorporate non-organic issue for a cybernetic result.
"The idea of this was: Can you take a normal, healthy, average human and give them [a] superpower that they wouldn't normally have?" he said.
Other researchers also are developing the technology to produce microscopic materials.
She's adapted 3-D printing to make it more sophisticated, with "inks" comprising materials that are more diverse than plastic and metal, and also high-precision printing platforms with fine nozzles.
Lewis told the
3-D printing's evolution will continue for the foreseeable future, especially when it comes to organic tissue. A huge limitation to the advancement of 3-D printing of organic tissue has been supplying them with blood throughout the process. Additionally, living tissue is more complex than anything else that's currently being created. But enthusiasts have reason to hope with developments like Lewis's blood vessel work.
"Organs are foreseeable, but that's a long-term goal," Vicari said. "That requires not just the better printing technology, but much better understanding of tissue engineering."
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