Perhaps I was initially a bit of a victim of link-baiting, I found this article about the real-world Organovo organ bioprinter pretty hilarious, as well as sharing the breaking news about the “mini-livers.” From IDG, via New Scientist.
In fact, the scientists over at Organovo already made a human liver in the lab that can perform most of the tasks that an in-body liver can perform. Unfortunately, it also happens to be the smallest human liver ever–only a millimeter deep and four millimeters across. As you can imagine, it’s not really big enough for your average human body.
The liver was “built” using a 3D printer loaded up with human cells. The printer assembles these cells the same way a normal 3D printer uses plastic, layering them into a final form. All told, Organovo’s mini-livers contain approximately 20 layers of cells, including some taken from blood vessels. The blood vessel cells are especially important, as they allow the mini-liver to take in nutrients and stay alive for a longer period of time.
Even though you can’t use these mini-livers for transplants, they do have a broad range of applications in the lab. Because Organovo’s livers function almost exactly like real human livers, they could help scientists test the effects of drugs on the human body. The mini-livers also produce the same compounds as a real liver, including cytochrome P450s, used by the body for drug metabolism and detoxification.
The next challenge for Organovo is to figure out how to print a larger support structure for blood vessels–essential if we’re ever going to get full-sized 3D-printed livers suitable for human transplant….
Still, not too long ago 3D printers were just assembling small plastic prototypes. Next it was guns, and now organs. Science seems destined to bring me to a future where I can indeed abuse my body as much as I want with no repercussions, and I can’t wait.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!