I honestly had to take a double take when looking into this story. Researchers have developed a bio organ printer that can actually print some organs the way you would print a picture of your kids. This is along the lines or the reprap project that I posted on a while ago. That printer is a 3D printer that can fabricate objects. Anyway, Gabor Forgacs at the University of Missouri-Columbia is leading the effort to create an organ inkjet printer. The result could be genetically manufactured organs that are fast and easy to make that aren’t rejected by the patient’s body.
Forgacs is able to print the organs using bioink and biopaper. The bioink contains cellular material that is ripe for building. The biopaper is a gelatin and hyaluranon mixture that has been altered to set and get harder. This allows them to alternate bioink and biopaper. You can see the process in the picture to the right. The result is the ability to build 3D organic objects. So far, the team is mostly building smaller things like blood vessels. But they have also built part of a chicken heart that started beating synchronously. The researchers want to be able to build the vasculature right along with the organ. They estimate that they could print a kidney, for instance, in around 20 minutes. The organ would then be put into an environment so that it would grow and mature before transplanting into the patient.
But, could you imagine a time when a new organ could be printed, grown, and implanted within a month? That would save countless lives. And it would be an organ that would be genetically identical to the patient and wouldn’t be rejected. And their vasculature printing would immediately help blood get to the new organ. Most current techniques attempt to promote blood vessel invasion after the fact. Now, where did I put that organ toner cartridge?