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Video: No Donor Required- 5 Body Parts You Can Make With 3-D Printers

Friday, June 19, 2015 9:14
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3-D printing has been around in various forms since the 1980s, originally as a means of quickly producing affordable prototypes for the manufacturing industry. Recently, researchers have found some amazing healthcare and biological applications for 3-D printing technology, called bioprinting.  As a result, the 3-D printing market for healthcare is predicted to reach roughly 4.04 billion by 2018. From custom prosthetics to living tissue, 3-D printing is a versatile means of providing cost effective and individualized care to patients.

With the advent of 3-D bioprinting, cells can now be dispensed from the printer onto a biologically compatible scaffolding, layer by layer, to create a three dimensional viable tissue. Numerous tissues have been constructed that can be used for a number of clinical applications from transplants to scientific research.

Although 3-D bioprinting is still a relatively new technology, there is notable success within this field with greater implications as the technology develops. We highlight five noteworthy advances in 3-D bioprinting that that could revolutionize the healthcare industry.

1) Blood vessels:  One of the primary limitations to building artificial organs for implants has been the lack of vascularization (the ability to transport blood and other materials through blood vessels to individual cells) in order to maintain organ health. However, a Harvard team has developed a method for creating hollow channels that allow blood to flow throughout the organ, essentially functioning as blood vessels. This new development will allow researchers to build thicker, more complex tissues that would otherwise fail.

2) Heart Valve:  Physicians at the Henry Ford Innovation Institute have been using non-bio 3-D printing to recreate hearts and valves. While not actual replacement organs, the exact replicas of individual organs are invaluable for the optimal treatment of patients. As we all know, each of us have unique sets of fingerprints, but a lesser-known fact is that we all have different hearts and valves as well. The models generated by the 3-D printers allow the doctor to examine in detail the innermost workings of the heart without making a single incision. This means helping doctors determine a candidate’s suitability for high risk procedures as well as optimal placement and custom fit of prosthetic valves and helping doctors anticipate adjustments that may be needed once the surgery begins (see video above).

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