Apart from creating cheap resources and constructing food, 3D printing is set to make huge changes to the field of medicine. Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are currently in the process of testing how 3D printing may be used to test drugs on human organs.
The technology, like something out of a science fiction film, the bioprinting project aims to create a 2-inch “body on a chip” which would allow realistic testing on cultivated human organs. The ambitious project has just been granted $24 million by the US Department of Defense. Possibilities for the ‘body on a chip’ project are vast, and could lead to a better understanding of chemical warfare, the effects of drugs on the human body, as well as the spread of disease.
At present, the Wake Forest Institute team, led by Tony Atala, has printed miniature livers, hearts, lungs and blood vessels. These tiny printed organs aren’t intended to represent full-grown human organs, but they will replicate reactions on a small scale which scientists will be able to observe and control.
With the ‘body on a chip’ technology available, scientists will be able to study how the human body is effected as a whole system rather than individual organs, as well as being able to make clinical trials of treatments and drugs more efficient.