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Biotech Medicine Science Hardware

Printing Replacement Body Parts 101

Deep Penguin sends in a piece that appeared in The Economist a couple of weeks back about a developing technology to "print" body parts for transplant. "A US and an Australian company have developed the $200,000 machine, which works by depositing stem cells and a 'sugar-based hydrogel' scaffolding material. (The stem cells are harvested from a transplant patient's own fat and bone marrow, to avoid rejection down the line.) The companies are Organovo, from San Diego, specializing in regenerative medicine, and Invetech, an engineering and automation firm in Melbourne, Australia. The initial targets are skin, muscle, and 'short stretches of blood vessels,' which they hope to have available for human implantation within five years. Down the line, they expect the technology could even print directly into the body, bypassing the in-vitro portion of the current process."
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Printing Replacement Body Parts

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  • Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

    by derGoldstein ( 1494129 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:10AM (#31342324) Homepage
    This mouse [] called dibs 8 years ago.

    Seriously though, this certainly isn't the first time this has been done []. Previous methods also used similar 3D printing techniques, except that the printed organ was a "dud" that was impregnated (injected and suspended in fluids, as I remember) with cells, instead of the organ being printed in one pass.

    Not that this isn't very interesting, it's just not as new as they make it seem.
  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @06:17AM (#31342804)

    It wouldn't work. As near as I can tell from the literature pointed out by my Type 1 co-worker, the immune problemm that destroyed your insulin producing cells is probably still active, and would also destroy the self-grown transplant tissue. My co-worker also pointed out some fascinating immuno-suppressive therapies that seem to control this problem, and allow diabetic animals to regenerate their own insulin producing cells, which seems like having this printer without bothering to buy the printer.

    It's described at [], and it's quite fascinating work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @06:21AM (#31342814)

    Anthony Atala presented this (and much more!) on TEDMED [] recently.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @07:07AM (#31343132)

    It's a myth that type 1 diabetics should avoid sugar more than non-diabetics. They can eat whatever they want as long as they complement the food with an appropriate amount of insulin.

  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @10:37AM (#31345204) Homepage

    It's true that it's a myth, after a fashion. You CAN get away (magic words there) with a lot more sugar than most people think when you say "diabetic".

    But it makes management much, much easier for type I and type II if you avoid consumption of excess sugar in your diet. You'll need less insulin if you're a type I and you might even not need much in the way of meds if you're a type II. It should also be worth noting that just because you're compensating for things with the meds, it doesn't regulate your sugars as well as a properly functioning body would do- you have spikes and valleys in your blood sugar- eating a bunch of sugars will cause a spike. The more of those you do to yourself, the more likely you are to develop the co-morbidities that come with Diabetes and unchecked sugars. In the end, I'll regulate my sugar intake and do without things, thank you very much...

Air is water with holes in it.