Awaiting the organ printer

I spend most of my time on technology-enabled health care services, where progress is slow and incremental. There are not too many breakthroughs. And I’m well aware of the side effects, dangers and limitations of being treated in today’s health care system. My hope has always been to stay healthy till I’m old, at which point cures (or at least radically better treatments) will have arrived for whatever might ail me. Now that I’m getting older I realize it’s not likely to work out that way. Still, there are certain technologies and study findings that rekindle some of that optimism.

Here’s one from the UK’s Telegraph (‘Printer’ designed to create made-to-measure human organs):

A prototype machine developed by the California-based regenerative medicine company Organovo is already capable of growing new arteries.

They hope that the same techniques could be used to create new organs.

It is based on 3D laser printing technology used to create new machine parts for industry.

But instead of combining layers of plastic and metal, the “bioprinter” puts living tissue together…

“Ultimately the idea would be for surgeons to have tissue on demand for various uses,” said Keith Murphy the company’s chief executive.

I have no idea how realistic this is, but it sounds pretty cool to me.

June 9, 2010

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