I’ve loved the idea of 3d printing for a long time. I’ve followed the RepRap for a while. Open Source Hardware strikes me as a compelling idea – anybody who has read Feynman’s memoirs knows that playing with building thinds is important for any young scientist.
Well, here’s a new awesome application to the idea of printed 3d materials: printing organs. The idea is that a computer prints a scaffold impregnated with human cells which then grow into the desired organ which is then implanted. The current state-of-the-art is printed veins, but other things are coming soon!
Wired has an article today on the first use of an artificial heart back in 1982. The patient survived for 112 days – pretty remarkable. I wonder if he felt any unnatural urges toward appliances… robot love, as it were. I doubt it. It sounds like it was a pretty miserable 112 days. I suspect that subtle emotional changes toward toasters… or uncomfortable fantasies about R2-D2… were secondary concerns.
Despite the derision with which the heart’s mystical associations have been dismissed, it’s a rather complex organ with a great many feedback mechanisms to keep it precisely regulated. We’ve come a long way in 30 years. In addition to thinking in terms of an improved plastic pump, there is a lot of thought going into manipulating stem cells to make new hearts from meat, the way nature intended.