June 19, 2009

Printing organs?

I just read an interesting article on 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, which has been around for a while now. It works by layering down and bonding successive cross sections, building up a 3D object. You can see a YouTube video of the process here. It's pretty cool.

The article focused on one of the extraordinary potential applications of this type of technology - tissue engineering for regenerative medicine. Researchers can print down a gel or biodegradable "scaffold" that human cells can grow on to build up artificial body parts or organs that can then be implanted into the body. The benefit in doing it this way instead of using conventional techniques, is in both speed and in the control over the microscopic features of the tissue. One day, researchers may even be able to print down human cells to build up organs with close-to-natural detail, ready for implant!

This is could be a great niche market for someone in NZ to get into and become a world leader. Anyone want to go halves in a 3D printer?

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