Coming eventually: Print your own organs

That's right, the ones that go inside you

By Alex Halperin
January 4, 2013 11:50PM (UTC)
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Kidneys (via Wikipedia)

Chris Anderson left his sweet job as editor in chief of Wired because he believes 3-D printing is going to be "bigger than the Web."

So far the technology, which enables desktop-size machines to "print" objects out of materials as diverse as recycled plastics and chocolate, is mainly the domain of professional designers, who have used it for years, and a growing band of early adopters. The machines tend to be slow and while prices have dropped, there's still not a killer app that has compelled mass interest in a $2,000-plus machine. The "filament" -- that is to say, ink -- isn't cheap either.


But the still small industry is betting that the ability to manufacture whatever you want whenever you want it is too compelling not to catch on. Just start to imagine the possibilities. And the implications. And now here's something you probably didn't get to: printing bodily organs.

Fast Company Co.Exist reports that the design firm Autodesk has partnered with a company called Organovo to develop the software necessary to instruct printers to create human tissue and organs. It's kind of like software to create a 3-D PDF except it would create living (maybe even breathing) tissue. The manufactured product would first be used for research but could eventually be transplanted into humans:

Organovo is known for creating the first commercial 3-D bioprinters back in 2010; as of September 2012, the company had produced 10 bioprinters, each of which reportedly costs hundreds of thousands of dollars...Organovo’s NovoGen MMX Bioprinter shapes cells--often stem cells from a donor--into 3-D tissue that’s theoretically as good as anything created by the human body.



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Alex Halperin

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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