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World’s First 3D Printed Organ Coming This Year

World's First 3D Printed Organ Coming This YearLast year was very interesting in the world of 3D printing.

And from the Massachusetts man who 3D printed a hand for his son, to Frank, the bionic man with many 3D printed body parts, we were able to see that this technology isn’t just disrupting manufacturing–it’s helping change lives for the better.

In that regard, it looks like 2014 is going to turn out to be even more interesting. 

Organovo, a company specializing in bioprinting–or 3D printing with human tissue–just recently announced a revolution in 3D printing, medicine, and manufacturing: the world’s first 3D printed organ (a liver) by the end of this year.

As the article we linked in Computer World notes, bioprinting works very similarly to 3D printing. Bioprinting “lays down layer after layer of material–in this case, live cells–to form a solid physical entity–in this case, human tissue.” The big difference between the two techniques is that one uses living tissue and one doesn’t. Bioprinting has been limited in its practical applications because the cells often die before printing is done.

Organovo claims to have solved that problem (to a degree), noting that it’s had some success printing real, living tissue to thicknesses greater than possible before.

All of this leads to the company’s biggest announcement, the 3D printed organ that it claims is going to be around by the end of the year. It’s planning on releasing a new “liver tissue model” to be used in the lab for medical studies and drug research. They’re still a ways away from a fully implantable 3D printed organ, but this is a huge step in the right direction as far as bioprinting is concerned.

3D printing, then, is much more than just a manufacturing technique or a cool technology to have around your shop–it’s a new technology that has the potential to change and save lives. And with the success that 2013 saw for 3D printing, we can’t wait to see what the rest of this year holds!

Photo credit: Organovo via Computer World

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