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Of all the things that 3D printing is capable of, bioprinting is possibly the most incredible. It’s one thing to be able to print perfectly accurate replicas of individual organs, but the idea of printing actual, working human organs seems unreal. Medical researchers are getting ever closer to being able to do so, however: a 3D printed thyroid gland has been successfully transplanted into a living mouse, and human kidney tissue is already available, printed for the purpose of testing product toxicity.

3D printing living tissue may be hard to wrap your head around, but Australia’s University of Wollongong wants to help you understand it better. The school, in conjunction with online education provider FutureLearn,  is offering a free, four-week online course in bioprinting for whoever wants to learn. The course is geared towards high school seniors who may be interested in pursuing a degree in the sciences, but is open to anyone, regardless of their level of knowledge or experience.

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“Revolutionary advances in 3D printing, along with the development of amazing biomaterials which can be seamlessly integrated into the body, have opened a world of exciting possibilities,” says Professor Gordon Wallace, the main course presenter. “We are not far away from a time when every major hospital will have a 3D printing facility.”

bioprintThe University of Wollongong was one of the first four colleges in the world to offer a master’s degree in bioprinting, and its innovation center, the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM), has been a pioneer in the field. The AIIM, whose work is a large part of the online course, is notable for developing a bio-ink embedded with human cells, and for re-engineering standard 3D printers to print with the ink.

The online course, entitled “Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts,” started on November 23, but registration is still open for those who would like to catch up. The course consists of two hours of study per week, and will focus on several bioprinting case studies including 3D printed, personalized titanium hip implants; made-to-fit masks for facial transplant recipients; and the future potential for printing organs with cell-infused ink. Guided instruction will be given for participants to design and potentially print their own creations at a local 3D printing facility.

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By offering the free course, the University of Wollongong hopes to not only encourage high school seniors to consider pursuing coursework in bioprinting, but to get the general public interested in this new, bizarre, lifesaving technology. Bioprinting may very well be a huge part of the future of medicine, and it’s going to need a lot of well-trained people in order to keep up with the speed at which the technology is advancing.

“This emerging field of biofabrication is being made possible through connections between medicine and technology and we are now seeing previously unimaginable developments,” continues Wallace, “such as prosthetic limbs controlled by thought alone, and bionic implants to restore lost senses, and of course – 3D printing of human organs.”

Will you be taking this course?  Let us know in the Free 3D Bioprinting Course forum on 3DPB.com.

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