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Covering technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing–and will change–human beings in fundamental ways.

Editor's Blog

Jay Cornell
January 14, 2010


Image: Organovo, Inc.First there were inkjet printers, then 3-D printers for rapid prototyping. Now comes a 3-D printer for creating living tissue. Organovo, a biomedical startup in San Diego, in partnership with Invetech of Melbourne, Australia, has created a 3-D "bio-printer" capable of building human blood vessels, organs, and more.

Based on technology developed by Professor Gabor Forgacs of the University of Missouri, the device fits inside a standard biosafety cabinet. A computerized controller guides the print head as it deposits droplets of living tissue, using a second print head to deposit a hydrogel for support and nutrients. The cells then self-assemble. A blood vessel five centimeters long can be created in about one hour.

Any cell type can be used. The technology could potentially create replacements for lost or damaged skin, bones, cartilage, muscles, corneas, teeth, and more, and might even replace the risky and expensive process of organ transplants.

Biomed Middle East article



2 Comments

    Organs and... more? Does that mean, bodies?

    Not yet.

    I recently pointed out on Imminst how this particular device is likely to make organ donors unnecessary within a few years. It also has the potential to disrupt development of artificial limbs, organs, and other mechanical replacements to lost or damaged human parts. As such it is possible this tech will slow down the progress in human enhancement technology via cybernetics.

    However, a recently developed program called Tinkercell, a Genetic CAD program for building organisms from scratch via known DNA sequences opens up the very real possibility that bioengineered enhancements may become a reality far sooner than anticipated. This machine in theory could be used to create not only individual organs, but with refinement, entire limbs, or indeed, with sufficient advancement, whole bodies. Combine this with a much improved database of known genes that will be developed from Tinkercell and it's various clones, the ability of zinc finger splicing to enable us to splice DNA almost at will, and the advances we have made and will make in stem cells, it does seem possible that with sufficient research it could be combined to make organ replacements which exceed the abilities of our natural ones, or which allow us to hybridized ourselves if we wish.

    While this is not likely in the near term, it does seem it might be feasible within the mid term 10-30 year future, though there are many factors which could slow or make it unfeasible that may emerge.

    At the vary least, this technology holds the potential to enable us to correct an enormous number of medical problems ranging from organ failure to replacement of cancer damaged tissue, even probably the eventual ability to replace lost or damaged limbs.

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