Most people these days have probably heard of 3D printing, where a three-dimensional object is created layer by layer by a machine using a digital pattern. People have been able to do some really neat things with this process, like creating prosthetics, scale models, pottery, and even food.
Scientists are determined to take this technology to the next level, however, and use it to someday create organs for people dying on the transplant waiting list.
A video recently shared by Seeker shows a miniature 3D printed lung-like system, complete with air sacs and the ability to expand and contract. It has the ability to oxygenate the blood flowing through it, just like real lungs.
One of the biggest hurdles teams have faced so far in the development of this technology involves the printing of blood vessels and other vascular structures. So small and intricate, the vessels often collapse under their own weight as they are being printed. This newest attempt uses an interesting new strategy involving hydrogel, light-sensitive material, and food dyes that allows the printed pseudo-organs to maintain integrity.
With luck and some more research, perhaps someday we will see the day when the wait time for a new organ is only as long as it takes to print one out.