Can We 3D Print Organs for Wounded Soldiers?

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

Cadets at the United States Army’s West Point Military Academy have been researching anatomy and working with bio printers in order to determine the practicality of printing body parts for wounded soldiers. The parts are printed with stem cells so they could quickly adapt to an individual’s body and prevent rejection of the new organ by the patient’s body. The replacement organs that may be printed in the future include blood vessels, meniscus cartilage, and other minor body parts.

26 cadets, divided into five separate teams, are working on three bio printing projects. The first two teams are working to develop bio-bandages for treating skin wounds and burns. These bandages would be printed using cells from the wounded soldier. These cells would then be combined with stem cells and 3D printed skin in order to produce a quick healing bandage that lowers the possibility of developing a scar.

The next two teams have been responsible for producing blood vessels capable of transporting blood throughout a patient’s body. This project is being seen as a precursor for printing blood carrying organs. The teams have also been working on bio printing meniscus cartilage as well as printing a working human liver. 

Bio printers work similarly to 3D printers, the main difference being the materials used for printing. Bio printers print using collagen, a naturally occurring protein in humans, and stem cells, according to

However, most of the work being done by the cadets involves pure research. The cadets have been studying blood vessels, livers, meniscuses, and the human body’s capability to heal in order to understand how the body will optimize the bio printed organ. At the end of the project, the cadets expect to print a liver and meniscus. Although currently, everything produced is strictly for research purposes and won’t be viable for implanting in humans.

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