been around in Vincent van Gogh's day, he would have had to do
something more dramatic to express his inner torment than cutting off
his ear – American startup BioBots has been demonstrating that he could
have easily just 3D-printed a new one.
As part of its ongoing effort to eschew animal testing of its products, L'Oréal has teamed up with bioprinting company Organovo to develop 3D-printed skin tissue for that very purpose.
Imagine being able to see in black and white or with an Instagram-like filter, or to have what you see through your eyes transmitted wirelessly, simply by swallowing a pill. Or imagine having vision so sharp and accurate that your visual acuity is on par with the most sight-adept people in the world. Italian research studio Mhox hopes to one day make this a reality with its EYE concept, which would offer 3D bioprinted eyes that replace your existing eyeballs.
When we hear about projects that may someday make it possible to create internal organs on demand, they usually incorporate 3D bioprinting
. This typically involves depositing successive layers of cell-seeded material one on top of another, to form the finished organ. While the technology definitely holds a lot of promise, a device known as the BioP3 could give it a run for its money.
While most are familiar with the potential for 3D printers to pump out plastic odds and ends for around the home, the technology also has far-reaching applications
in the medical field. Research is already underway to develop 3D bioprinters able to create things as complex as human organs
, and now engineering students in Canada have created a 3D printer that produces skin grafts for burn victims.
The ability to bio-print tissues and organs could one day allow us to create custom body parts that could be used for transplants. New research has brought that possibility one step closer to reality. Scientists have bio-printed artificial vascular networks that mimic the body's circulatory system.
The notion of 3D printed biological tissue
holds all kinds of possibilities for drug testing and the reparation of damaged cells, though replicating the complexities of human tissue in a lab presents some very big challenges. A new bioprinting method developed by researchers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has enabled the creation of tissue constructs with small blood vessels and multiple cell types, marking important progress toward the printing of living tissue.
While the prospect of 3D printers pumping out biological tissues
and replacement organs
has many justifiably excited, researchers at Oxford University have gone in a slightly different direction with the creation of a custom 3D printer capable of producing synthetic materials that have some of the properties of living tissues. Rather than being intended for supplying spare parts for damaged replicants, the new materials could be used for drug delivery or replacing or interfacing with damaged tissues inside the human body.
When a child is born with the congenital deformity known as microtia, they have an underdeveloped external ear – also known as the pinna. Even though their inner ear may be normal, the lack of the external structure can affect their hearing, plus it looks unusual. Normally, a replacement pinna is made from a foam-like material (or sometimes even cartilage from the rib cage) and implanted under the skin, although these don’t always look particularly natural. Now, scientists from Cornell University have developed a more realistic pinna grown from biological material, using a 3D printer.
For a great number of people, the idea of being able to use a patient’s own cells to create lab-grown replacement organs is very appealing. Already, researchers have had success growing urethras
(which are essentially hollow tubes), and miniature human livers
. Before large, solid, three-dimensional organs can be grown, however, scientists must figure out a reliable way of incorporating blood vessels into them – if the lab-grown organs simply take the form of a block of cells, the cells on the inside won’t be able to receive any nutrients, and will die. Now, a team from the University of Pennsylvania and MIT has devised a way of building such vessels, using sugar.