Imagine needing a kidney... and ordering one from a printer...
perhaps an ear or a leg?
It sound like something out of a good science fiction movie?
Yes... and it's also in the process of becoming a reality.
Skin and kidneys are just the beginning... now that 3d printing technology is the new frontier in business and medicine.
Printers used to just print ink on paper... now printers are able to print objects... like this jaw bone at the computer science research lab at UAB.
Here's how it works... a laser can scan the bone... then reproduce it's dimensions in the computer... then you can send it to a printer and viola.... you have an exact replica.
Graduate student Paul Bonvallet... wants to help people rebuild their jaw bones.... when he graduates in a few months...
Paul Bonvallet says he has plans with 3D printing. He wants to develop a bone scaffold to regrow bone tissue for dental applications so if a patient loses a tooth the bone tissue... it will degrade away. But the scaffold will use the actual bone to regrow the exact part the person needs!
Right now the military is experimenting with printing human skin on soldiers who are wounded.
They use human cells in a liquid to regrow the skin. Also there is work to regrow ears and fingers
Scientists have already experimented with growing a human kidney.... Scientists and researchers at UAB say the possibilities are endless with printing technology, bio engineering.. and mechanical engineering.
Even students at the Shelby County School of Technology can see where the future is going...
Dr. Crawford Downs IS A UAB professor and researcher. I think we're going to be printing organs in the 10 to 20 year time frame and that's exciting.
Right now at UAB Dr. downs is using this printed part of the eye from UAB's computer printer lab. on a large scale they can study this intricate part to one day hopefully save someone's sight.
Dr. Downs says, "When you print it out in 3d you can't hold it and look at orientation of nerves .. as they leave the eye and really learn.
He can see using the technology to cure diseases."
Dr. Crawford Downs also says one day they might be able print a cube of pancreas then it starts producing insulin. Be a way to treat diabetes. I think that's where we are headed.
Already... 3d printing is helpful in patching the human body.
Tyler Boile is a high school students from the Shelby County School of Technology. He shows us a picture he found online and tell us a man lost half his face and 3 d modeling in Europe was able to make the left side of his face.
Tyler Boile also says, "You could probably make a whole human with a 3d printer in the next 20 years there's no limitations I don't think there's anything a 3d printer can't do."
This UAB graduate student agrees...
Paul Bonvallett says, "What we would do for the brain is build a structure where the neuron cells would grow in and possibly do that."
Dr. Crawford Downs is a UAB researcher. "At this point the world is your oyster you can basically do what ever you want you just have to figure out how to do it."
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