Sunday, October 14, 2012

Need a New Body Part? Hit Print.

There is tremendous amount of on going research to develop living tissue in the biomedical engineering field. With the evolution and promise of 3D printing many biologists have now been evolving innovative ways to recreate living tissues. While three-dimensional printing is revolutionizing the manufacturing world, the world of bio-engineering is paving the future by using this technology for the purposes of developing organs and tissues. Bioprinters have the capability to artificially place cells to create living tissue. The flexibility of bio printers permits it to place cells exactly as it is required. The vertical and horizontal movements of the head of the printer develop the living tissue layer by layer.

Bioprinting has numerous interesting applications, according to the Wall Street Journal there are researchers at Cornell that are currently working on developing heart valves, knee cartilages and bone implants. In North Carolina, bioengineers are working on printing kidney cells and healing tissues for burns and scars. Researchers and engineers hope that some day transplant surgeries will be supported by this bioprinting technology itself. The beauty behind this technology is that every body organ has its own intricate complex structure, if this could be replicated it will solve a lot of existing medical problems.

In 2010, Organovo, a pioneer company in bioprinting printed the first blood vessel. Since then they have implanted nerve grafts into animals such as rats and predict that such technology would be fit to use on humans by 2015. Bioprinting or tissue engineering is still in a very preliminary stage, most researchers claim that it will still be years before this is actually clinically tested.

While bioprinting brings with the promise of the unexpected with medicine the question that arises is that of moral practices. How will the government, research labs and medical institutes enforce and carry out ethical practices? How will they limit and restrain the power from slipping into the wrong hands? How will they ensure that what was meant to cure a broken leg will not be used instead to enhance it?


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