If you've been following our coverage of 3D printers, you know that I'm absolutely in love with them. They enable all sorts of amazing creations that were previously unheard of in the world of science, medicine and, perhaps most importantly, toys. The latest 3D printer project from University of Pennsylvania has the potential to save lives and be revolutionary at the same time.
Scientists have theorized about the possibilities of making organs through 3D printing for a few years now. The bioengineers at Pennsylvania have found a way to make this more of a reality by finding a way to create blood vessel systems out of sugar via 3D printers. This is a huge step forward as any potential organs created via 3D printers would need the necessary blood vessel framework to deliver oxygen and remove waste.
So where did they get this revolutionary idea to create blood vessels out of sugar? Funny enough, a science exhibit on the human body gave one of the researchers, Jordan Miller, the idea. He says that he saw plastic casts of "whole organ blood vessels" and that's what led him to theorize that 3D printers could create working blood vessels.
The process works something like this. The 3D printer uses the sugar to create a set of guiding pipes that will direct the fluid. The team then coats these pipes with a corn-based polymer to stabilize the sugar. In what may be the most sci-fi thing you see all day, they then dump a batch of cells onto the man-made creation and they go to work turning these sugar tubes into living tissue. After all is said and done, the cells dissolve the sugar walls and leave an entire network of living tissue in their wake.
If this doesn't blow your mind with the implications that such a discovery has for medicine, just watch this video of the researchers making the blood vessels. I've always said that 3D printers were the key to a lot of tomorrow's advances and it looks like one of them has been found today. I can't wait to see what else this team and teams all over the world come up with as 3D printers decrease in price and expand in power. The idea of being able to print your own working car might not be too far off.[h/t: Spectrum]