Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I’ve always been a big fan of laser printers. Inkjets seemed so wasteful, and while they were cheap to purchase, the ink cartridges could often cost more than the printer itself. They spewed colour shamelessly and somehow managed to dry out if you didn't use the thing for a few weeks. Plus they just weren’t as cool (lasers, man, lasers!). Now inkjets have gained a competitive edge over my beloved laser printer, one that I suspect laser machines will never be able to surpass.
Inkjets can make organs.
That’s right. With 3-D inkjet technology, actual human organs can be created. Instead of shooting ink, they shoot cells, and presto! A kidney. Or a bladder. Or even a heart.
I am not making this up. They have already created a quarter-size two-chambered heart that spontaneously begins beating. Kidneys? No problem. While they are years from actually implanting organs of that type, they have already used the technology to successfully create and implant simpler organs, such as urethras and bladders. Cells from the patient’s own body are loaded into the inkjet cartridges and an organ is “printed” over a dissolvable frame. The whole thing is put in the patient. After implantation, the cells mature and change inside the body, connecting to nerves and blood vessels naturally. To quote Anthony Atala, one of the scientists researching this technique: “There’s a genetic code within all your cells that drives them to do what they are supposed to do if you place them in the right environment.”
Now, I presume they aren't using your standard Lexmark model, but it’s still pretty impressive. Very science fiction. Very Star Trek replicator. But why stop at organs? Most of us (thankfully) don't need organ transplants every day. Turn this wonderful discovery into something that can change people's daily lives. Will it really be that long before I trade in my trusted laser printer for an inkjet that can make me a turkey sandwich on toasted rye?
(The Chinese, of course, strongly oppose this technology. Its proliferation would mean an end to their entire power base. See my post on January 24 for more details: http://wyrmgeek.blogspot.com/2011/01/chinese-organ-monies.html)