Imagine how many lives you could save.
It’s certainly possible to be able to print a heart in the future! 3D printers allow you to deposit a wide variety of materials in a very specific manner, and you print from the bottom up in tiny layers to produce lots of amazing things. Clothing, toys, kitchen gadgets and even car parts can be made this way.
There are already tons of medical uses for this cool technology. Scientists have used them to create flexible scaffolds that can help keep a person’s windpipe open so they can breathe properly, and 3D printers have also been used to create very accurate models of a patient’s body, so surgeons can practice a procedure on a plastic version before trying the real thing.
However, Hearts and Lungs are complicated organs, with lots of different cells that must be in the right place. But 3D printing is perfect for this! You can arrange cells in a precise pattern that lets everything work together properly. And the pieces must go together perfectly because the bigger the organ, the more difficult it is to keep alive.
Larger organs need a lot of blood going through them so they can get enough oxygen and other nutrients to stay alive. But scientists have started to figure that out as well, learning how to print tiny blood vessels that can connect to a patient’s own blood supply and keep the organ alive. So hopefully we aren’t too far off from printing out some amazing replacement parts for the body!
Some people have predicted that a whole heart could be printed out in a matter of hours! Then you might need a week or so for it to mature outside the body before you put it into someone that needs it. But this is still very quick, and could be very important considering lots of people are on very long waiting lists for heart and lung transplants at the moment.
Within a few decades, you might only need a week to get a new heart if yours is starting to fail, imagine how many lives it could save!