Two marvelous advances in technology and medicine have met and the possibilities are endless. The 3D printer has suggested that it may soon be possible to produce nearly any object by just pressing a key on your computer keyboard. Stem cells offer doctors and medical researchers the opportunity to generate nearly any cell or organ in the human body with just a microscopic initial sample. Together, these two breakthroughs may make human life longer and easier.
What Is a 3D Printer?
Traditionally, printers have been used to create or reproduce two-dimensional objects such as pictures, photos or designs. These so-called 2D objects are really in three dimensions because the ink used to make them consists of a thin layer. The concept of 3D printing was derived partially from the idea of making different pictures by adding ink differently over the surface of the paper underneath.
The term used to describe the ultimate process is additive manufacturing. Instead of ink, a device is equipped to add layers of powder or liquid to a surface. These materials contain the actual elements of the device that the printer is intending to replicate. A computer guides the complex process after reading slices of cross-sections that have been translated into digital form.
3D Printing and Stem Cells
This technology is still nascent but, after its earliest uses, biomedical researchers realized that they might apply the same technology to their work in cosmetics and aesthetic medicine. These scientists have been working for many years to develop the possibilities in stem cells. These are cells found in the human body that retain the ability to transform into any cell used in human organs and tissues. The most potent of these cells are embryonic stem cells.
Recently, the University of Edinburgh published notification that it had been successful in creating a 3D stem cell printer. This device generates living stem cells. This is a result not only of advances responsible for 3D printing and stem cell harvesting but also in the ability of the machine to generate and deposit cells without damaging them.
In a return to its origins, this 3D printer actually squirts out ink. The ink, in this case, is a bio-ink. Two such inks are combined to create stem cell droplets. The first variety of ink contains the stem cells in a medium known as a nutrient broth. The second ink contains more of the nutrients without any mixture of stem cells. The printer layers the stem cells in wells where the stem cells are suspended. So far, tests have shown that the stem cells remain viable for many days in this environment. As much as three days later, nearly 90% of the cells were still capable of development into new cell types.
This development presents incredible opportunities for patients interested in aesthetic medicine. Medical clinics such as Epione Beverly Hills will someday be able to utilize this progress to work miracles in cosmetics. Soon, clients may be able to request perfect and indistinguishable replacements for their organs and tissues.