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Need a Kidney? Just Hit 'Print' and 3-D Bioprinter Swaps Ink for Cells

Print-on-demand technology -- utilized by companies like Vistaprint and CafePress -- has become widely implemented over the last decade as digital printing has steadily replaced costly letterpress plates and other complicated methods. At the same time, 3-D printers (like our favorite, the MakerBot) have become more commonplace in the manufacture of products and prototypes. And, now, biotech outfit Invetech has merged the two technologies, replacing printer ink with living cells. That's right: a 3-D, on-demand human tissue printer.

Developed for bioprinting company Organovo, the printer contains software that allows bioengineers to build model "scaffolds" on which to place, say, liver cells for a patient in need of a transplant -- all before the structure is constructed by laser-calibrated print heads. The printer then builds the tissue layer by layer, much like a traditional 3-D printer.

This will undoubtedly change the game for biotech in years to come. The technology proposes a future in which patients do not need to wait for transplants from other human hosts; instead, medical technicians will simply have tissue models ready to be customized and printed on-demand. And, of course, this will be tons of fun if it ever hits the consumer market (not likely), as we've already started fantasizing about printing out real teeth and eyeballs for next year's Halloween ghoul-fest. [From: Live Science, via: Gizmodo]

Tags: 3d printer, 3dPrinter, bioprinter, biotech, health, invetech, medical, organovo, print on demand, PrintOnDemand, research, science, top