We’re cautiously optimistic here at 3DPrinter.net. We speculate often about the futures of bionics and space flight, but we let the experts give the real timeframes. Bioprinting has an especially promising timeframe. Co-Director Tim Marler of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMTecH) group at the University of Iowa College of Engineering’s Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD) says “The long-term goal of this branch is to create functioning human organs some five or 10 years from now. This is not far-fetched.” Sure, it’s only one highly-trained person in a lab. But he’s not alone. Engineers in Australia agree that that’s a realistic expectation.
Researchers from the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne are making rapid advancements in bioprinting. Associate Professor Damian Myers led the project where cartilage was grown from stem cells applied to a 3D printed scaffold. Stem cells were isolated from adipose tissue that was collected from under the kneecap. The growth required 28 days, and the results are stunning. “We are trying to create a tissue environment that can ‘self-repair’ over many years, meaning the repaired site will not deteriorate,” he said. “It’s very exciting work, and we’ve done the hard yards to show that what we have cultured is what we want for use in surgery for cartilage repair.” That’d pair nicely with the printed spinal implants.
ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace said “Within a few years, we believe it will be possible to manufacture living tissues like skin, cartilage, arteries and heart valves using cells and biomaterials. Using a patient’s own cells to create this tissue avoids issues of immune rejection. By 2025, it is feasible that we will be able to fabricate complete functional organs, tailored for an individual patient.” 12 years. Designer organs.
“While 3D printing is already being used in some medical applications, by bringing together the materials and scientists at ACES and the clinicians and researchers at SVH we have been able to accelerate our progress so that we are now on the verge of a new wave of technology leveraging 3D printing/additive fabrication techniques to deliver solutions to a number of medical challenges. These include bionic devices, the regeneration of nerve, muscle and bone, as well as epilepsy detection and control.” We won’t need pacemakers or canes. Nor dialysis. Herniated discs and osteoarthritis will be resolved with outpatient procedures. Cancerous organs could even be replaced. Yeah, sign me for the optimistic future.