Bioprinting has emerged as one of the more exciting medical technologies of the last year or two. Although, these 3D printers which print out human cells, in order to form actual living tissue, are not directly saving lives yet, in the very near future they will be. Already, we are seeing bioprinted tissue being used in drug toxicity tests, allowing pharmaceutical companies to save money and possibly the health of test subjects, during clinical studies. The progress that we have seen, within the bioprinting space over a matter of a few short years, has been nothing short of amazing. Within the next 5-7 years the technology should have matured enough that we will begin seeing some very impressive applications.
Earlier this week, Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani from HuffPost Live, sat down and discussed this amazing technology with one of the leaders in the exciting field of bioprinting, Dr. Ibrahim Ozbolat, an Engineering Professor at University of Iowa. Ozbolat is also a co-director of the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Group, and seems to have a very clear, yet almost sci-fi vision of the future uses of 3D bioprinting.
While researchers, and a couple of corporations are busy figuring out how to 3D print functioning organs like the human liver, heart, and kidney, Ozbolat has an even more awe-inspiring idea about how this technology will eventually be used. He started off discussing the problem with the millions of pacemakers on the market today, and how bioprinting can possibly fix this problem.
“A pacemaker runs with a battery, and when the battery needs to be replaced surgery is needed,” explained Ozbolat. Instead of having to open the patient up to change out the battery, “there will be an organ that is transplanted into the human body to create electricity to run the heart.” He then continued to explain his vision of the future.
“All the researchers and scientists are concentrating on creating organs that can replace failed organs. But there might be some brand new organs that don’t exist in the human body, but can be transplanted into the human body to enhance the functionality,” Ozbolat told HuffPost Live. “For example you can create an organ that can generate electricity within the body.”
Ozbolat is currently working diligently on 3D printing a pancreas-like organ which can be transplanted into a type 1 diabetes patient. The new organ can help regulate a person’s glucose levels. Instead of treating diabetes with drugs, he envisions a future where these patients will simply have an organ printed out to cure their disease. This organ may not be a normal pancrease, but one which has been bioprinted in a way to genetically modify the cells to enhance their function within the body.
He went on to explain that eventually 3D printers will be capable of printing cells and body parts, directly onto a human being, and that such a procedure has already been proven to work with mice.
It will likely be ten years before we begin to see actual bioprinted organs able to be transplanted into a human being, however, once this happens we won’t be very far away from creating enhanced, new organs for the body as well. Let us know what you think about Dr. Ozolat’s comments and ideas. Do you think we will one day, in the near future, have enhanced bioprinted organs transplanted into human being? Discuss this story at the 3DPB.com forum thread about ‘enhanced bioprinted organs’. Check out the full video interview with Dr. Ozbolat below:
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