By Margarita Williamson, Trending Writer
Technology has impacted the medical field in every way possible. Medical instruments, machines, procedures, and all around patient care has significantly improved because of advancements in technology. Constant advancements in technology make everything seem possible even the concept of healing damaged tissues and organs. Today, 3D printers can be used to print toys, car parts, prosthetics, and anatomical organs among many other things.
Regenerative medicine is working to restore function and structure to damaged tissues and organs. Last year, Discover Magazine’s March issue had a piece on Doctor Anthony Atala who heads the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative medicine. According to Discover Magazine, In 2001 Dr. Atala created a brand-new bladder for ten year old Luke Massella made from Massella’s own cells. Atala’s bladder technology worked in seven children, including Massella. It has been thirteen years since those bladders saved those children, but the procedure has not been approved for general use. In a TED talk, Atalla printed a kidney and showed it to the crowd. He also discussed the advancements in 3D printing abilities. However, he has not confirmed how long it will be until transplanting a solid organ into a human will be possible. “For the purposes of using a kidney, Atala uses a printer cartridge loaded with human cells rather than ink, and a 3-D kidney shaped substrate of collagen instead of paper. The printer, guided by computer imaging, drip cells, layer by layer, over a 3-D scaffold, and the inert mold comes to life.” Atala’s TED talk has been seen online by millions of people.
The use of a 3D printer comes with life changing medical advancements, but there are also negative aspects to it. As 3D printers and scanners become cheaper, more people would have access to them. People would be able to print dangerous items. Intellectual property rights would be challenged when 3D printers are more accessible. Most concerns regarding 3D printing are valid; the advancement is both exciting and terrifying. Despite this, the possibilities of giving people the opportunity to have their organs and tissue repaired outweigh all the negative aspects that come with 3D printing.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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