Spare parts are easy to come by for your car, but not your body. That may change soon.
From cosmetic surgery to organ transplants, it can be handy to have spare parts available for humans. There are difficult problems with this, however, whether it is finding a suitable donor or keeping the body’s immune system from rejecting the new part. One approach is to use 3D printers to create new parts using the patient’s own tissues, but most printers are not fast enough. Before the final layers can be deposited, the first layers are already starting to die off. Researchers at the University of Buffalo have developed a process that can print tissues a whole lot faster by printing multiple blocks at the same time. The result is up to 50 times faster. The 3D printing process can even create different types of tissues, such as blood vessels inside a replica of a human liver. The team has only used hydrogels so far; these are the flexible materials used in soft contact lenses. Their next step is to use live organic cells to produce functioning structures.