3D Printing may allow for humans to be rebuilt

If you are of a certain age, then you may remember the Bionic man. Martin Caidin was the writer of Cyborg, the basis of The Six Million Dollar Man, followed by Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman (in 2007 played by Michelle Ryan), and then Robin Williams in the movie Bicentennial Man. The point is that we have, for a long time, envisioned a world where we could merge robotics, technology, and the human into one. And, while in the past this was considered to be science fiction, today it is a reality. The bionic man may no longer be Sci-Fi thanks to 3D Printing and new advancements in Biogenetic Engineering.

“We can rebuild him, We have the technology”

Since the early part of the decade starting in 2010, 3D Printed body parts have been available. The technology and design was advanced by Princeton University and by Johns Hopkins University. When it was first implemented, the printing was focused on exterior tissue replications such as the ear, the arm, nose, etc. The thought was to provide a means for those who were born with defects, as well as those who were the victims of amputations and diseases, to have the ability to have cosmetic fixes. Yet, the capabilities of the 3D Printers, as well as advancement in cell rejuvenation, has pushed the boundaries substantially.

Per an article published by nih.gov, Bioengineers have been able to create three-dimensional brain-like tissue that works. And, while the tissue is based upon rat brain functions, it may not be too distant in the future to see humanoid brain cell tissue replication. Since there is the ability to produce working organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and even the lungs in a modern Biological 3D Printer, it is quite possible that brain matter will be developed in the near future. We have the technology for it.

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While this tissue was created using a hand held 3D Printer, it is interesting to see that the steps have been made to create human functional brain tissue using 3D Printing technology. Video acquired from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySPvBbfY2Fc

We can make him stronger

If you look at the advancements in prosthetics and bone replacement technology, you will see that the materials have greatly advanced in their durability and their longevity. Obviously, we have evolved from the wooden legs and the cheaply constructed parts of the 17th to 19th century, and thanks to the introduction of robotics, plastics, rubbers, and the microcomputer, we have the ability to create, not only stronger replacements, but also interactive and responsive robotics within the 3D Print. Take for example the hip. Metals, such as stainless steel and titanium, are the standard in today’s society. Yet, the technology, as well as the materials, are available to make a medical replica of the bone mimicking the natural state of the bone and minimizing risks associated with rejection from the body.

What makes this ideal for the human receiving the 3D Print is that it does not have to have the deterioration caused by age, specifically the absence of calcium in the bones, which would make the bone frail. When a person needs a hip or a knee replacement, the technology and materials are available to make a semi-organic Medical 3D Printed Part from a 3D Printer.

We can make him better

Unlike The Six Million Dollar Man, who was stuffed full of Sci-Fi parts and gadgets which did not exist during that time, the industrial, commercial, and desktop 3D Printer can physically create anything that the imagination deems possible. This can be something as simple as a knee pad to protect the knee, or something as complex as a working spleen.

Because the advancements in technology are ever changing, we could make man better. Not to replace man, but to make it to where if there is a cause to replace an organ, say from cancer or on a veteran who has been wounded in combat, then we can do so. The great thing is that, also unlike the television and cinematic portrayal, such can be done at a fraction of the cost. It does not take 6 million dollars to make a prosthetic arm or leg. Some take only a few hundred dollars. Granted, the working organs that use acting cells are more expensive, but the risk of the body rejecting them is much lower.

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Picture of 3D Printed Heart acquired from http://media.techeblog.com/images/3d-printed-heart.jpg

What could this mean for mankind?

While there is no fountain of youth that could make a person immortal, the longevity of life may be increased as the ability to produce organs for individuals increases. One of the main causes for death is heart disease. Should the ability to replicate the human heart though 3D Printing become more readily available and cost effective (as the technology and the ability to make such prints already exists), we could see an increase in lifespans. And it is not only the heart. So long as the organs can be replaced and function, the rate of death caused by organ failure could become relatively small. What is known is that we have pushed beyond the realm of Sci-Fi into a whole new world of discovery.

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