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medical devices and maybe even simple organs
Just last month, scientists at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute announced that it might soon be able to build "bioficial" (a portmanteau of "biological" and "artificial") heart, by printing the heart valve by valve and vein by vein.
From food to firearms to full size homes, 3 D printers have the potential to remake manufacturing, one razor thin layer at a time. But nowhere, perhaps, is that potential more exciting than in the field of medicine, where pills cost hundreds of dollars, medical devices cost tens of thousands and organ transplants and follow up care can cost millions.
him to breathe, but the splint implanted in February 2012, and written about a year later in the New England Journal of Medicine helps keep the trachea open. It's made of "bio resorbable" plastics, meant to dissolve into the body within three years of the surgery.
Then come the fully organic materials, the holy grail of tissue engineering. Organovo is working in this realm, creating small tissue and disease samples that can be used for research.
Our bodies and our organs, Mr. Renard said, have lots of redundancies built into them, and it may not be necessary to incorporate all of those functions into the new, 3 D printer versions.
Breakthroughs are coming every year. One at the University of Michigan helped save the life of a Youngstown, Ohio, infant doctors used a 3 D printer to build a hose like splint to help keep open the airway of a 3 month old boy named Kaiba Gionfriddo.
"Bio printing means different things to different people," said Michael Renard, executive vice president of commercial operations with Organovo, a San Diego company.
So called "chemputers" already are being tested and could one day be used to "print" medicinal drugs at home (and which could also be used, in theory, to print illicit ones). Some companies and university based research labs are working on printing inorganic, but "bio compatible," prosthetics, joints and cartilage.
Because certain magnesium alloys corrode when placed in aqueous substances, they can serve as temporary scaffolding for cardiovascular and orthopedic devices.
His weakened airway kept collapsing, making it difficult for Bottega Veneta Wallet Men
"And even if you printed it up," Dr. Wagner joked, "hooking it up would be a problem . People get Balenciaga Inspired Bag Uk
"With complex organs such as the kidney and heart, a major challenge is being able to provide the structure with enough oxygen to survive until it can integrate with the body," Anthony Atala, a Wake Forest University researcher who is hoping to use 3 D printers to build a human kidney, told the Associated Press.
3 D printers which convert precise digital models into real life objects, layer by layer, cell by cell to create stents and thin layers of biological tissue. Pharmaceuticals and artificial joints could be next.
That's the low hanging fruit. The next level are hybrids inorganic devices and tissues that have been suffused with living cells, to make those materials more life like over time, or to allow them to degrade over time, allowing them to be fully replaced by living materials.
Those degradable materials are the most immediately useful of the 3 D printer creations, said William R. Wagner, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Right now, among other projects, the institute is working on printable metals, magnesium based alloys that break down in the body.
"The key to 3 D printing is, 'What's the stuff?' " Dr. Wagner said. "How is it going to be printable?" Just because you can design a model of an organ, he said, doesn't mean it will work.
But others, such as Organovo and the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute in Louisville, Ky., are more bullish on the possibility of making working organs. They may not be mirror image replicas of human organs but then again, they may not have to be.
The researchers hope to Men Prada Wallet print and assemble an entire heart within five years, and hope it might be used in humans within a decade.
a little bit ahead of themselves, thinking you're going to hit a button and get a liver."
"As you think about maybe providing a liver in the future, [maybe] it doesn't have to be an anatomically correct four lobed liver," he said, particularly if they are being used for research.
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"Much like the ink comes out of your printer, [the] material coming out of our printers is the cells," Mr. Renard said. The trick, he said, is arranging those cells and materials in a precise order and shape that renders them usable, either scientifically or therapeutically.
"You can get a 3 D shape, but can't print the complexity of interaction between cells," he said. In other words, while the 3 D printer is a sexy tool, with untold manufacturing applications, it might not always be the best tool in the health care field.
ALSO FROM SUNDAY: The hospital of the future
Even with the precise ability to "print" organic material cell by cell, certain creations will remain elusively in the science fiction realm. Printing an eyeball, for example, seems impossible for even pioneers in the field to imagine.
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