The problem with organ transplants is that the organ has to come from someone else. Since most people rather fancy their hearts and lungs, getting any organ other than a kidney usually requires the difficult combination of donor consent and timely death. In an attempt to circumvent that limitation, the engineering company engineering firm Invetech teamed up with the medical company Organovo to produce the first commercial 3-D bio-printer.
The device, which works like a 3-D fabricator, builds organs up one layer of cells at a time. Instead of using melted plastic or ink, the printer uses different cells based on the recipient's own body, thus significantly lowering the chance of organ rejection. For some of the more complex organs, the printer lays the cells over a pre-made scaffold.
The printer remains in an early testing phase, but Invetech and Organovo claim that the technology will advance far enough to print out arteries and veins for bypass surgery within five years, with complex organs like a heart or a liver possible within ten.
Naturally, these companies created this device for the benefit of mankind and human health, but I'm looking forward to using it for the benefit of my taste buds. Perfectly marbled cut of bone-in rib eye? I'll email you the specs -- just print it out when I'm done with my appetizer.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.