From Printing a Paper to Printing a Project

Monica Daubon

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     According to The Week magazine, once every 10 minutes, a new person is added to the organ transplant list. On average every day, 18 of those people die waiting for a transplant. It seems all hope is lost because you can’t just grow organs for people who need them… or can you?

     3D printing is the new hope for people needing a transplant. So far, scientists have started 3D printing ears, skulls, liver tissue, bladder, kidneys, skin, blood vessels and bones. This is done by extracting a patient’s cells, turning them into bio-ink, printing layers of bio-ink, combining those layers with a glue-like hydrogel and then printing the desired shape. Although it is not a true organ produced by your body, it is filled in with your bodies’ cells. Think of soaking a sponge in water. A sponge is not made of water, but the water fills it up and makes the sponge usable. In 3D printing, the patient’s cells fill up the printed organ and make it a functioning organ. Also, since the printed organ contains the patient’s own cells, rejection from using another person’s organ will not occur. Your body will recognize that organ as your own.

 Artificial ear made by a 3D printer:

     Bio-printers also hold promise for cancer treatment. Scientists can build organs that contain tumors and other scientists can use drugs and treatments on the printed organ to see how the cells react with the treatment. This way, humans are not used as test monkeys and scientists can have an unlimited amount of trials.

     As mentioned before, the 3D printer has printed skin for patients. Skin is in fact the body’s larges organ. You might think though, “How do you print skin? Isn’t it like a blanket and doesn’t it have a definite shape?” This leads me to introducing another medical advancement: the skin gun. This skin gun is similar to a spray paint can; inside the can contains the paint, you hold down a button and the paint comes out. The skin gun works the same way. Inside the gun contains a burn patient’s cells, you hold down a button and the skin cells come flying out. Scientists have been able to grow skin in labs and later transplant the skin sheets onto patients, but that can take weeks and the skin sheets are very susceptible to being damaged. The skin gun process takes roughly an hour and a half! A sample of the patient’s skin from healthy, undamaged areas are taken, the cells are left to multiply, they are put into a solution and sprayed on the damaged section of the skin. The healthy cells stimulate skin growth that does not make your skin scar.

Skin gun and how it is used.

     So far, the skin gun can only be used for second-degree burns. Scientists are working on improvements to heal people with third-degree burns. Also so far, 3D printers have only printed minor organs and some partial transplants. The future holds the possibility for full transplants of organs such as hearts. There is hope for transplants in the future, and that hope can be fulfilled through medical advancements like the 3D printer and the skin gun.

ear skin-cell-gun-for-burned-skin-treatment

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