How 3D printing is revolutionizing healthcare
Today, 3D printing is performed by telling a computer to apply layer upon layer of a specific material, molding them one layer at a time until the final product is built. Medical technology is now harnessing this technology and building tiny organs, or “organoids,” using the same techniques, but with stem cells as the production material. These organoids, once built, will in the future be able to grow inside the body of a sick patient and take over when an organic organ, such as a kidney or liver, fails. It may sound like something out of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” but the implications — and cost savings — make this technological breakthrough in 3D printing particularly immense.
For centuries, burn victims have had incredibly limited options for healing their disfigured skin. Skin grafts are painful and produce terrible aesthetics; hydrotherapy solutions offer limited results. But researchers have now taken the mechanics of 3D printing — that same careful layer-upon-layer approach in which we can make just about anything — and revealed a 3D bioprinter prototype that can produce human skin. The researchers, working with a bio ink that contains both human plasma as well as material extracts taken from skin biopsies, were able to print about 100 square centimeters of human skin in the span of about half an hour. The possibilities for this technology, and the life-changing implications for burn victims, are endless.