August 1

A couple of weeks ago I described how living organs for transplant procedures are being created with stem cells.  Well, the breakthroughs on the bioengineering front continue to happen fast and furious.

Just recently, researches have successfully “printed” a living blood vessel using a fluid containing a brew of blood-vessel cells and muscle cells.  This is an ingenious application of 3D printers — remarkable devices that can create three-dimensional objects by applying multiple layers of a liquid construction material.  (For more info, visit this Wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing.)

Printed blood vessels could have tremendous applications in surgery.  For instance, a patient awaiting bypass surgery could have blood vessels printed in the days leading up to the procedure — with the vessels made from a small sampling of his or her own cells.  The ultimate vision is to print complete organs — even new hearts — as an alternative to transplants.

Given the pace of this technology’s development, I believe were only talking a handful of years before we see it saving lives in major hospitals.  Very exciting.

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