By Jeremy Hsu and LiveScience
Source: Scientific American (www.scientificamerican.com)
Scientists have recently begun developing a series of 3-D printed “bodies on a chip” that could replace animal and cell testing in the future. These “bodies” consist of a series of mini-organs- chunks of tissue from various organs that have been 3-D printed out of layers of individual cells and connected with artificial scaffolding and blood/fluid channels to a electronic chip. Tony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine explained the process as, “We’re printing miniature solid organs: miniature livers, hearts, lungs, and vascular structures. (. . .) The question is whether you can have a better system to test these drugs (. . .) [we] can bypass cell testing and animal testing by going straight to miniature organs.” The chip inside the “body” measures its temperature, oxygen, pH, and other factors, enabling scientists to use these mini-organs to test drugs or see how the body might react to a disease.
The possibilities are endless! Bioprinting, and especially this type of bioprinting, is such an exciting concept because there are so many ways in which it can be utilized. First, this new use of bioprinting might enable scientists to better test the drugs we put into our bodies, skipping the steps of animal and cell testing all together and going right to an actual “body” without harming animals or people in the process. Second, drug testing on “bodies on a chip” could help rapidly improve scientist’s ability to respond quickly to pandemics or bioterrorism attacks. Testing drugs in this manner not only allows scientists to see how a drug might affect one organ, but a whole system of organs, thereby making the whole process safer and more effective.
Questions For Further Discussion: What do you think?
In what ways is this development exciting? In what ways is it frightening? What do you think the future of modern medicine looks like? Does it include bioprinting in this way, or in any way?