You still can't get a 3D-printed liver transplant made from your own cells, but an Australian hospital is trying to push the tech into the mainstream. The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane is building a dedicated "biofabrication" space where doctors and researchers can develop tech to model and print cartilage, bone and other human tissue. "It will be the first time a biomanufacturing institute will be co-located with a high-level hospital," said Australian Minister of Health Cameron Dick.
The facility will occupy two floors of the hospital and use state of the art tissue manufacturing tech in surgery procedures. "Our vision for healthcare is that the biofabrication institute will pave the way for 3D printers to sit in operating theaters, ready to print tissue as needed, in our hospitals of the future," Dick said.
It's still early days for 3D tissue and medical implant printing, but QUT is one of the facilities pushing the limits, along with Wake Forest, Harvard University and others. Researchers have grown (but not 3D printed) bladders from patients' own cells and successfully transplanted them, and attached human ear prostheses made (in part) from living tissue. Building more complex organs (like highly sought kidneys) has proven a challenge, however, because it's hard to supply blood and keep them alive for longer than a few months.