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What if I told you that today, you could print a tailored prosthesis from your own home? But beyond customization, 3D printing offers a major advantage: it’s cheap. For instance, classical prosthetics cost $5,000 to $50,000 when a 3D-print one can be produced for less than $100. Tailored, accessible, efficient… This new manufacturing process is changing the medical devices landscape.
Another major evolution of the 3D printed organ is the 3D biopriting technology. This complex process allows to print complex 3 dimensional human tissues assemblages that offer a wide range of uses:
- 3D-printed skin for burnt victims.
- Grow mature human printed tissues using bioreactors.
- And last year, scientists of the Bristol University even managed to bioprint stem cells and turn them into osteoblasts, a cell that secretes the substance of bone.
3D printing could also put an end to a taboo of animal and human testing in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry. Today, companies are able to create 3D human tissue formations using special bio-ink. Those “human samples” are already used for medical research. They allow the observation of potential treatment in real time without any risk for the patient. Could this become the new standard for quality control in the healthcare industry?
Beyond the technological issues, 3D printing organs raise many regulatory and ethical challenges. What will the impact be on the human body? Will scientists have time to perform tests on secondary effects? And what about using this technology to enhance human body? In 2013, Princeton University scientists printed a bionic ear that can hear a wide range of radio frequency usually not accessible to man. The goal of the project: to explore the feasibility of combining human tissue with electronics. Terminator… Is that you?