When I think of 3D printing, I normally think of fun gadgets that make our lives even geekier. There are so many 3D printed smartphone cases, mini-robots, little figurines and jewelry that it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are more significant uses for 3D printing technology than just creating silly stuff. There are life-changing ways it can be used also. One touching example is how it was used to help a 3-year-old use her arms. You can read about that at Changing Life With Simple 3D Printing.
Another way 3D printing can be used to change lives is through 3D printed stem cells. What?? Yes, it’s true. Recently scientists were able to produce and print real clusters of stem cells. What this mean is that the road to being able to create artificial human organs has just been shortened significantly. This translates into less waiting time for patients waiting for an organ transplant.
Embryonic stem cells, which are produced in the early stage of embryos, can be used to create any type of tissue in the body. Stem cell research has been subject to a lot of controversy over the years, but many parents still make the decision to preserve a child’s stem cells at the time of birth. Those cells can be saved in case of an emergency for a child’s entire life. I made that decision with my son, and even now, 12 years later, I pay a storage fee each year to keep those stem cells preserved in case he needs them.
According to Dr. Will Shu from the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, “We found that valve-based printing is gentle enough to maintain high stem cell viability, accurate enough to produce spheroids of uniform size, and most importantly, the printed hESCs maintained their pluripotency – the ability to differentiate into any other cell type.” This is truly an exciting breakthrough. If you would like to read more about these 3D printed stem cells, you can click over to Edinburgh Scientists Use 3D Printing To Produce Stem Cells on BBC News.
3D Printed Stem Cell Clusters Will Change Lives For The Better