Some time ago I became fascinated with 3D printing technology. The idea of creating duplicates of an object from a blueprint reminded me of the replicator technology from Star Trek.
I’ve blogged before about the advances in 3D printing for both excellent medical uses, interesting new applications such as printing medications, and in potentially sinister uses with the printing of guns and other lethal weapons.
I read an interesting article recently about the advances in the medical use of 3D printing technology that will one day allow for intricate 3D printing of human tissue. Already there is 3D printing capability for use in various medical treatments. But, so far, most of the capability remains in printing human tissue for laboratory use in pharmaceutical testing and for further study.
The goal of medical 3D printing is to one day have the capability of printing viable human organs. The development of the Biopen, a hand-held 3D printing pen made of medical grade plastic and titanium, allows surgeons to draw personalized stem cells from a human and overlay them onto damaged tissue to heal itself.
The procedure is slow and deliberate, but a simplistic explanation is that a person’s stem cells are used to create a surgical scaffold using a mix of hydrogel and stem cells as the “ink” of the 3D printing pen to begin the tissue regeneration process.
At this point, scientists have been able to achieve a 97% survival rate for the stem cells used to generate human cartilage, but one of the more recent developments is the use of this process to create skin from one’s own stem cells.
This achievement of 3D printing human skin could become a major medical advancement to help patients heal from traumatic injuries, and could become especially significant for burn victims.
Of course, as with many medical advances, there can be both beneficial and ominous outcomes by using such technology. I can imagine that if 3D printing of skin becomes commonplace, our judicial system might no longer trust fingerprint technology to identify those involved in criminal activity. And, certainly, fingerprint security could no longer be trusted as foolproof.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!