Remember when Luke Skywalker lost his right hand when battling Darth Vader in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), or more importantly the part in the film where he walks out of the infirmary with a brand new hand in no-time flat? As I was trying to quench my thirst for academic nirvana, I came across several articles about 3D bioprinting and its impending impact on the health industry. One particular article in the LiveScience section of FoxNews.com, published September 24, 2013 3D Printing Aims to Deliver Organs on Demand describes the future of regenerative medicine, specifically the “bioprinting” of organs and body parts. The fact that we are on the brink of such technological breakthroughs is mind-boggling; imagine living in a world that can replace a heart, liver, or even a kidney, in a blink of an eye, without waiting for matching donors. DNA would be extracted from healthy donor cells from the recipient’s own body to generate (or regenerate) healthy tissue or organs, which is an exciting breakthrough in itself and the possibilities are endless.
We already use regenerative medicine to a lesser extent (such as the use of artificial scaffolds and living human cells for implanted lab-grown skin and other body parts). This new technology will lead to the elimination of artificial scaffolds whereby omitting the need of man-made “armatures” in the structural design of organ tissue, thus preventing the body’s rejection of alien substances and expediting the healing process. The intriguing aspect of regenerative organs is that it allows scientists to experiment with cancer fighting drugs (outside the human body) and find cures for cardiovascular diseases, as well as others. The age of the Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978) and Bionic Woman (1976-1978) has come to fruition. Imagine the devastation of losing a limb or being diagnosed with an incurable disease then becoming the recipient of a better, more durable heart, liver, or body part? The fantasy of George Lucas’ Star Wars technology is becoming a reality as we reap the benefits in this lifetime. Could it be that Hollywood planted the seed of techno-scientific possibilities into the minds of future scientists?
What are your thoughts?