It's the stuff of science fiction, however, it is already here. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has purchased a '3-D printer' that would be able to theoretically print human organs. Biomedical engineering has been revolutionizing the medicine field in a big way in the last few years and it continues to be a field that is most influenced by automation.
The assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UTSA, Teja Guda, acquired the equipment and intends to put it to good use. Guda said, "There aren't many organ printers in the world. We wanted to explore this new space in regenerative medicine since so many at UTSA have those strengths."
According to UTSA's website the device will print cells and keep them from perishing as they have before in 3-D printers before this one. This is because it "operates without heating or high pressure."
"Essentially we're creating our own materials with embedded living cells," Guda stated. He further explained that they load the embedded living cells up in little syringes, "insert them into the machine", and then it prints an organ as a regular 3-D printer would - layer by layer.
"Transplantation of tissues is a huge challenge because they're not always successful and they're limited in supply. If we're able to make transplantation significantly more successful, that's huge," Guda confessed.
The aim of the project is to eventually print "replacement" organs for people who might need them. The engineers feel they are on the verge of something massive that might influence the future, and all of it done within the walls of a university.