Until and unless, you are hiding under caves, you might have heard about 3D printers. If not, 3D printing is just one step more than 2D printing. In normal 2D printing, information is printed on a surface (usually a piece of paper). In 3D printing, we can construct three dimensional objects by continuously printing one layer on top of another layer. Using this advanced technology, we can print plastic toys, concrete houses, custom shaped) chocolates (ah Chocolates :p), cars and even rocket engines. Most of the time, we see hobbyists using the 3D printers to make cool plastic models.
What bio scientists can do with 3D-printers?
They can use 3D printers to print the artificial organs using single (live) cells as building blocks. Recent examples of brain cell, heart embryos, prosthetic skull, and legs are evident of the exponential growth in the 3D printing technology.
That immediately, brings up the question, can we put together the 3D-printeded tissues of heart, brain, skull, skeleton, and nerves to make/3D print a complete animal, even a human being?
Does God permit us to do so?
Most of the religious scriptures tell us that we are all constructed from the basic elements soil, water and air. Bible says 3 elements, Baghadgita says 5 elements and Quran says just 2 elements. So the point is somehow it’s possible to copy the Nature, if not the God.
So can we do it?
Let’s do the math first. A human body consists of 10^14 or 100 Trillion single cells. 50 Million cells die/replaced every second.
Little philosophical pause
That means part of us are die and reborn every day. Can you appreciate the beauty of God’s creation for a moment? How complex giants are we?
Let’s come back to science
Using the current 3D printing technology developed by Prof. Boris Chichkov in Germany, we can print 10^8 single cells per second. That means a complete human body can be printed in 2 hours and 47 minutes. Hold your breath. Prof. Boris Chichkov is claiming that it’s even possible to improve the current technology to print 10^10 single cells per second, we can 3D-print a man/woman in 30 seconds. I don’t know about you, but my heart skipped a beat when I was looking at those numbers for the first time. So many philosophical questions were blowing my mind, and I don’t have answers for any of them.
Why do you care?
Because, printing the individual organs, if not the entire body has some immediate benefits:
- We can print the organs such as hearts and liver to save many lives.
- For example, In India 200,000 people need a new kidney every year and 100,000 need a new liver. We can stop people dying due to lack of organ donors.
- In many cases, like developing countries, organ replacement is a costly affair and it involves many kinds of bad things such as human trafficking. So we can avoid that mess, by simply printing the required organs, like how we buy an injection in a shop.
- The 3D printed bodies can be used as pedagogic tools to teach biology/anatomy to students. Imagine saving lives of many frogs and rats in scientific labs to learn biology.
- We can rapidly test the drugs on artificial organs, before going for trails on rats and human beings. It will save serious money and time to develop new drugs.
Why do I care?
Because, apart from the above reasons, I am making a syringe pump in recent times. Using that I am going to make a bio printer, not to print organs but to print biostructures such as….I don’t know yet. But why? I am just curious. How? Will tell you soon. Is it my main research? Hell no. It’s just one of my hobby project. So it will take some time to see the pictures and videos of me doing bioprinting.
Take away message:
Yes, it is possible to 3D print human beings, or in general animals (at least in principle). Like any technology, it’s more useful than harmful when used in the right spirit.