by Graham Pierrepoint
While the concept of 3D printing may still be rather fresh and bizarre to many people, it has been slowly bubbling away and growing in the backgrounds of many different industries – and yes, while you can purchase such a printing device for home use, such equipment is currently being used to help build and create parts for machines and devices. However, there is a current trend in bio-printing – and thanks to firms such as Cellink, we could be seeing a revolution unfold in terms of body and cell replacement in just a few years.
Bio-printing is still very much being analyzed and, while it may be physically possible for engineers to grow certain body parts using human cells and the incredible technology at their fingertips, moves are largely being made in the direction of growing cells and cartilage for drugs testing – though CEO and co-founder of Cellink, Erik Gatenholm, believes that we could be growing organs to help replenish the transplant deficit within two decades. His company has seen considerable growth and investment since 2015, and with the industry thought to be expanding into the billions of dollars within only the next five years, the Swedish firm really is at the epicentre of a revolutionary – if not slightly sci-fi – concept.
Watch: Scientists Develop New Method For 3D Printing Organs ▶
The concept of full-on organ or body part printing could come with some ethical concerns, however, and Cellink are thought to be ready to face such matters head-on should they arise. However, it is argued on the other side of the coin that development of such technology could not only help those looking for much-need organ donor support, but that it may even reduce the need for animal testing long-term. As such, a bio-printed set of skin cells, for example, could be used to aid cosmetics and perfume testing which is largely frowned upon when animals are involved. On the one hand, it is a concept which could save millions of lives and could help to stop animal testing for good – but on the other, are such engineers creating life for the sole purpose of testing?
Whichever side of the argument you root for, it can hardly be denied that technology has advanced at a blistering rate to even consider such cell manipulation within such a small window of time. Let’s see where this all leads – and we could well be printing clones come the end of the next decade!