How Bioprinting Has Turned Frankenstein’s Mad Science Sane – Facts So Romantic

In the United States alone more than 120,000 people are waiting for organ transplants, and many will die before their turns come. What if they didn’t have to wait, because doctors could print out replacement organs on demand?

20th Century Fox/Handout

That’s the ultimate goal of bioprinting, a seemingly sci-fi spinoff of the burgeoning industry of 3D printers. If all goes according to plan, a medical technician will eventually be able to cast living cells into a complex three-dimensional shape that replicates the anatomy and action of a human liver, for example, or a beating human heart.

Today’s bioprinters can already produce chunks of functional human tissue, which is a pretty remarkable feat of biological manufacturing. But don’t expect an assembly line for full-sized organs any time soon. Scientists’ major challenge is scaling up: They must create tissue with enough structural integrity to hold an entire organ together, and find ways to knit that synthetic organ into the body’s network of blood vessels.

This work has powerful cultural resonance. Nearly 200 years ago Mary Shelley gave us Victor Frankenstein, the bold scientist who assembled a creature from human body parts. Frankenstein presented a cautionary tale of what can…

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