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Surprising Science

Will 3D Printers Manufacture Human Organs?

A Dutch woman has received a jaw implant created layer by layer from a 3D printer. The maker of the machine says human organs could one day be printed using organic 'ink'.

What’s the Latest Development?

The results of a groundbreaking surgery, involving a woman who received a prosthetic jaw created by a 3D printer, have just been published. Dutch surgeons who performed the operation say it is a one-of-a-kind procedure. Before the surgery, the jaw was designed specifically to fit the woman’s face. Then it was sent to the printer, where titanium powder was fused with a laser layer by layer to create a complex implant involving articulated joints, cavities to promote muscle attachment and grooves to direct the regrowth of nerves.

What’s the Big Idea?

3D printers have been forecast to revolutionize manufacturing, allowing small businesses to create and test innovative products like never before. Now, the printers seem poised to usher in a new era of personalized prosthesis. And the future looks even more promising. Engineers at LayerWise, the company whose printer built the jaw, say that their ultimate goal is to print human organs ready for transplant. While biological and chemical problems still need solving, printing organs would technically be possible using an organic ‘ink’.

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