DNA Magazine - - CONTENTS -

3D printed body parts? Not sci­ence fic­tion.


Ad­vances in top­i­cal treat­ments – medicines de­liv­ered by gel or cream onto the skin – are help­ing peo­ple all over the world and are mak­ing med­i­ca­tions more ac­ces­si­ble.

Creams and gels are of­ten more sta­ble than l iq­uids and so are less l i kely to break­down un­der harsh con­di­tions. The hope is t hat top­i­cal t reat­ments will soon be avail­able for t hings l i ke i nsulin, help­ing pre­vent t he reg­u­lar nee­dles t hat even young chil­dren need if t hey’re born di­a­betic.

Peptide creams are tak­ing the skin­care in­dus­try by storm and are be­ing utilised for crow’s feet, baggy eyes, wrin­kles and more. Peptide creams are be­ing used to help treat not only the face and skin but our whole bod­ies. From in­creas­ing mus­cle size, re­pair, anti-age­ing, fat loss or even get­ting that per­fect tan, peptide creams are in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity.

The creams are rubbed into the fore­arms and are ab­sorbed into the skin, re­mov­ing the need to use nee­dles. When com­pared to sub­cu­ta­neous in­jec­tions, peptide creams have been proven to be 90 per cent as ef­fi­cient and are much more af­ford­able.


Imag­ine not hav­ing to travel to the doc­tor’s surgey or sit in the wait­ing room. In­stead, you jump on­line and in­stantly be­gin a con­sul­ta­tion with your health­care provider. It’s called telemedici­ne and it’s a cheaper, more con­ve­nient way of reach­ing your doc­tor and it’s al­ready hap­pen­ing.

In ad­di­tion to us­ing a Facetime chat to di­ag­nose ba­sic ill­ness, some com­pa­nies are cre­at­ing new tech­nolo­gies to help those in re­mote ar­eas where prop­erly trained med­i­cal staff are not as read­ily avail­able. Take, for ex­am­ple, tele­men­tored ul­tra­sound systems (RTMUS).

Ba­si­cally, the end piece of the ul­tra­sound (US) is sent to the pa­tient, who plugs it into an iPad and gives a doc­tor, po­ten­tially thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away, a vis­ual ul­tra­sound via the in­ter­net con­nec­tion. The doc­tor can tell them which way to move the US to prop­erly di­ag­nose the con­di­tion.

This saves times and money for both the pa­tient and the doc­tor as nei­ther has to travel to see the other. This is only the be­gin­ning, how­ever, with doc­tors and sur­geons now tak­ing guided vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) tours of our bod­ies… I won­der when dat­ing apps will also in­clude this vir­tual re­al­ity com­po­nent?


Ad­vances in med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy are ex­plod­ing us­ing 3D prin­ters. In the fu­ture, a bro­ken or shat­tered bone could be healed much faster than the way we do­ing things now.

Sci­en­tist have cre­ated what is be­ing termed a “hy­per­e­las­tic bone” made up of three in­gre­di­ents: hy­drox­ya­p­atite, poly­capro­lac­tone, and a sol­vent. Hy­drox­ya­p­atite is a min­eral that oc­curs nat­u­rally in our bones and ini­ti­ates the first steps of our stem cells be­gin­ning to grow. Poly­capro­lac­tone al­lows f lex­i­bil­ity. You might not think of bones as be­ing f lex­i­ble but, in fact, with­out f lex­i­bil­ity, a lot of the po­si­tions we put our­selves into would re­sult in se­ri­ous break­age if they weren’t. Lastly, a sol­vent is used to stick the lay­ers to­gether dur­ing the print­ing process. The com­bi­na­tion of all three cre­ates a per­fect en­vi­ron­ment from which our stem cells can grow nat­u­rally while re­main­ing f lex­i­ble enough for move­ment.

The print­ing process can be much cheaper than an­tic­i­pated be­cause biomed­i­cal labs use the ma­te­rial a lot. Also, the spe­cific mea­sure­ments and print­ing time could all be done in a few hours. This time would re­duce as tech­nol­ogy in the field ad­vances.

In ad­di­tion to this hy­per­e­las­tic tech­nique, a com­pany called Xil­loc is us­ing cal­cium phos­phate print­ing to help unify with the pa­tient’s bone, most likely used for larger bones in the body. This is com­monly seen in re­con­struc­tive surg­eries of the face and scalp.

Imag­ine some­thing you’d like 3D printed ex­actly as you wish and then have real stem cells grow through­out to make it truly your own. Just wait un­til things can be made func­tional as well.


Stem cells are a class of un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated cells, which means they have the po­ten­tial to change and be­come any spe­cialised cell type from brain to belly to blood.

Sci­en­tists have found that stem cells can cre­ate al­most any­thing the body may need – or­gans, limbs, an ear – the list is end­less. The most soughtafte­r med­i­cal re­search is in the field of grow­ing vi­tal or­gans. The wait­ing list for or­gan trans­plants is never end­ing with de­mand in­creas­ing as we con­tinue to live longer. Stem cell tech­nol­ogy will help as we be­come able to “up­grade” our or­gans when they be­come in­ef­fec­tive.

Prob­lems arise, how­ever, when stem cells don’t know the spe­cific ar­chi­tec­ture of an or­gan. They may be able to trans­form, in­di­vid­u­ally, into heart cells, for ex­am­ple, but that doesn’t mean they’re go­ing to stack them­selves prop­erly and cre­ate four cham­bers that are able to pump blood through the body.

But sci­en­tists have found a way around this is­sue by tak­ing or­gans from very re­cently de­ceased in­di­vid­u­als and sub­ject­ing them to a decelluris­ation process known as “ret­ro­grade per­fu­sion”. This strips the or­gan of its cells while main­tain­ing its struc­tural tis­sues, leav­ing be­hind the “ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign” of the or­gan.

A de­cel­lurised heart would then be im­planted with har­vested heart stem cells and, with the ar­ter­ies and veins con­nected to ma­nip­u­late blood f low, over time the heart would be­gin to beat suc­cess­fully and could then be trans­planted into a hu­man. This has been done with al­most all or­gans but more re­search is needed in or­der to be­gin hu­man tri­als. MORE: Dr Zac Turner (MBBS RN Bsc) can be con­tacted at

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