The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Print Your Own Organs: Cheaply, Easily

Need a new kidney? Or skin tissue? How about blood vessels? One day soon you might be able to get all these things cheaply and on demand thanks to BioCurious, a group of engineers seeking to build an affordable 3D printer that churns out biomaterial cell by living cell.

Bio-printers, Wired reports, “have the potential to change the way medical research is conducted, even print living tissue and replacement organs, but they are expensive and highly specialized. They literally build living structures, like blood vessels or skin tissue, cell by cell, revolutionizing biomedical engineering.”

The bioprinters available today are expensive and extremely complicated to operate, but BioCurious may change that. A talented team of hobbyists and scientists, led by Patrik D’haeseleer, who has worked at Harvard Medical School and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, salvaged parts from ordinary printers and figured out how to print sheets of cells for experiments, all for about $150. One day, D’haeseleer hopes, these printers will churn out intact human tissue.

Imagine the revolution in medical care if affordable 3D printers can make replacement organs on demand. No longer will the grievously ill need to wait months or years for one to become available.

Will this technology work as advertised? Will it be cheap and freely available to all? We don’t know, but one way we can help developments like this one along is by reforming our health care system in ways that reconnect cost with individual consumer choice.

Published on January 24, 2013 3:17 pm