‘Print­ing’hu­man or­gans

Sun.Star Pampanga - - OPINOIOPNINION -

I still re­mem­ber when com­put­ers were in­tro­duced in our work­place. I was amazed at how our 286 per­sonal com­puter has made of­fice life eas­ier. I thought that our “high­tech” elec­tric type­writer, the lat­est model then which has a mem­ory bank, was the best there is. And with the ad­vent of com­put­ers, print­ers also came in. Our first unit then was a dot-ma­trix.

Then tech­nol­ogy be­gan to speed up. Our 286 was quickly re­placed by 386 then 486 and Pen­tium. To­day, per­sonal com­put­ers have be­come smaller, faster and more in­tel­li­gent. Print­ers im­proved too. From dot ma­trix, which by the way are still be­ing used to­day, came laser print­ers and inkjets. To­day print­ing is no longer lim­ited to flat pa­per sheets. There is such a thing as 3D print­ing. This printer can “print” or cre­ate a three-di­men­sional ob­ject by adding suc­ces­sive lay­ers of ma­te­rial. It can cre­ate a hu­man face, a cup, ma­chine spare parts, etc. Ob­jects can be of al­most any shape or ge­om­e­try and are pro­duced us­ing dig­i­tal model data from a 3D model or an­other elec­tronic data source such as an Ad­di­tive Man­u­fac­tur­ing File.

Push­ing this 3D tech­nol­ogy fur­ther, re­searchers have de­vel­oped a printer that can cre­ate hu­man or­gans. Called 3D bio­print­ing, it’s the process of cre­at­ing cell pat­terns in a con­fined space us­ing3D-print­ingtech­nolo­gies,where­cell func­tio­nand­vi­a­bil­ity are pre­served within the printed con­struct. Re­cently, a 3D bio­printer was able to cre­ate a to­tally func­tional hu­man skin ad­e­quate for trans­plant­ing to pa­tients or for use in re­search or the test­ing of cos­metic, chem­i­cal, and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts.

Ac­cord­ing to the news item, this new hu­man skin is one of the first liv­ing hu­man or­gans cre­ated us­ing bio­print­ing to be in­tro­duced to the mar­ket­place. It repli­cates the nat­u­ral struc­ture of the skin, with a first ex­ter­nal layer, the epi­der­mis with its stra­tum corneum, which acts as pro­tec­tion against the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment, to­gether with an­other thicker, deeper layer, the der­mis. This last layer con­sists of fi­brob­lasts that pro­duce col­la­gen, the pro­tein that gives elas­tic­ity and me­chan­i­cal strength to the skin.

Bioinks are key to 3D bio­print­ing, ac­cord­ing to the ex­perts. When cre­at­ing skin, in­stead of car­tridges and colored inks, in­jec­tors with bi­o­log­i­cal com­po­nents are used. “Know­ing how to mix the bi­o­log­i­cal com­po­nents, in what con­di­tions to work with them so that the cells don’t de­te­ri­o­rate, and how to cor­rectly deposit the prod­uct is crit­i­cal to the sys­tem”, says the re­searchers.

I won­der what will be next. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Biotech­nol­ogy In­for­ma­tion (NCIB), 3D bio­print­ing has al­ready been used for the gen­er­a­tion and trans­plan­ta­tion of sev­eral tis­sues, in­clud­ing mul­ti­lay­ered skin, bone, vas­cu­lar grafts, tra­cheal splints, heart tis­sue and car­ti­lagi­nous struc­tures. Bio­print­ing is not be­ing ap­plied to hu­mans yet, due to sev­eral FDA reg­u­la­tory is­sues. How­ever, an­i­mals have al­ready ac­cepted the man­made tis­sues, ac­cord­ing to a bio­print­ing ex­pert. There are also re­searches on how to en­able cells to be printed di­rectly onto or into the hu­man body. Aside from tech­ni­cal is­sues, I’m sure there will be eth­i­cal is­sues that will be raised along the way.

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