Tissue Printing

Advances in computing over the last quarter century were the key to unlocking the science of life. Future generations are likely to view bioinformatics as the most important and far-reaching application for computing. While the Web and social media allow our civilization to evolve in new ways, computational biology is allowing us to redefine life itself. You could say that doing biology is what computing was meant for, in the grand scheme of human history — every other use was just a footnote.

In a similar vein, 3D printing using biomaterials will allow us to produce living tissue cheaply, cleanly, and efficiently, transforming the way we think of organisms, bodies, and food.

Watch video: Prototype 3-d tissue printer in operation

In that sense, the current wave of experimentation and innovation around 3D printing with inorganic materials like plastics may just be a transitional phase. It’s merely a stepping-stone that ultimately serves  to create a cadre of technical improvements that innovators who understand this technology can apply to life science in the future. We’ll need biologists to become as good at using 3D printing as they are today at computing.

In this view, 3D printing using inorganic materials is actually quite dull — there are but a limited range of applications where it makes more sense than traditional manufacturing, which is already highly evolved after a century. But tissue production must, by necessity, always be bespoke. Every one of the 6,000 livers transplanted in the United States each year, if produced using 3D stem cell printing, would have to be customized. There’s no other way to do it.

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