/spadassin/

12.05.2005

Who needs transplants

Wired has a neat article up about Organ Printing, which is something I've been imagining for a long time. SF has focused on things like cloning and organ banks almost since its beginning, but I think it's something like organ prining and biomanufacturing that will be the key technology of the 21st century. Eventually, the technology might even mature to the point where entire bodies can be printed on demand, drastically extending the human lifespan. All without the need for silly things like islands full of replacement clones.

However, the technology is still a good 5-10 years from practical applications of even the simplest sort.

So far, they've made tubes similar to human blood vessels and sheets of heart muscle cells, printed in three dimensions on a special printer.

"I think this is going to be a biggie," said Glenn D. Prestwich, the University of Utah professor who developed the bio-paper. "A lot of things are going to be a pain in the butt to print, but I think we can do livers and kidneys as well."

Prestwich guessed initial human organ printing may be five or 10 years away.

The work started as a way to understand biological self-assembly -- such as how an embryo develops -- in the lab, Forgacs said.

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