Printing human body parts was once limited to science fiction. Now, thanks to companies such as Cellink, the technology has become a reality. The Swedish company is already able to print life-size human ears and noses, and is currently working on growing cartilage and skin cells for testing drugs in clinical trials.
Bioprinting works by using bio-ink, a liquid made from cellulose and alginate that can be mixed with human cells and then 3D printed. Unfortunately, printing human tissue can come at a hefty price. Bio-inks can cost between $9 and $299 for a few milliliters, and bioprinters cost between $10,000 and $39,000 each. The hefty price limits customers to academic institutions and pharmaceutical firms, who hope to use bioprinted human tissues in research and product testing, potentially reducing the need for live animal models.
The field of bioprinting is likely to continue growing. As technology becomes more sophisticated, bioprinting firms hope to be able to print human organs and skin for organ transportation and wound healing. Once the technology is sufficiently advanced, the question will inevitably change from whether we can print human organs to whether we should.
By Allie Hexley