3-D printed organs and bio printing’s role in the future of healthcare is uncertain but exciting at the same time.
3-D printing technology has been in the press so much this past year. With bio printing, instead of the printer spraying ink to create objects, they spray human cells. Bio-Printing is in its infancy but has the potential to transform:
- transplant surgery
- bioprinting of human cells
- lifelike models of organs
- printable, implantable human tissue
Benefits of Bio Printing
- Lower costs of these types of medical issues and treatments
- Improves surgery
- Creates lifelike models of organs for both surgical guides and teaching tools
3-D Printing Makes a Difference
3-D printing technology is being used to print a hand for a young girl born with very little of her right hand. An organization called Enabling the Future funds school programs specifically around Innovating robotic hands using 3-D Printing.
The Robotics Program at DeerCreek Intermediate School, Wisconsin teaches 8th graders using robotics and computer design to innovate a 3-D printed hand.
This 3-D printed hand is designed to have mechanical movements similar to a human hand. As the young girl moves her wrist, 3-D printed fingers will open and close, allowing her to properly hug someone and hold onto small objects for example. These are simple things she could not do before.
The director of the robotics program noted: "Children need a refitting at every growth spurt, making a prosthetic hand or other treatment options not affordable. This could change the game."
It can cost up to $50,000 for just a prosthetic hand and insurance doesn't always cover it.
The Bio Printing Innovator
Dr. Anthony Atala has been a trailblazer in the field of regenerative medicine for many years. He is the Director at the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina where innovations like this are just a mark on a map.
Wake Forest has some of the most sophisticated 3-D printers in the world. These printers use human cells to print instead of ink.
Dr. Atala's objective is to achieve printable organs for transplant patients. He "Body on a Chip" project has reached innovations many others have not in the field of bio printing. He currently is able to print tiny versions of organs kept alive by a machine that functions like a human body. He uses the technology to sense how organs will do once drugs are put into them.
His institute has innovated what they call 3-D printed scaffolds to hold ears, kidneys and bones as they develop inside the body. They're designed to go away over time while human cells take over and create real human tissue.
Bio Printing and 3-D Printing for Cancer Research
Perhaps the biggest breakthrough could be bio printings effect on cancer research. Using 3-D printing, researchers create exact replicas of a patient's cancerous tumor. This will allow them to test in real how a patient tumor will react to any number of cancer treatments.
As you can see this has the potential to completely transform healthcare as we know it, especially in regards to research. We'll be watching.