You remember 3-D printing, right? That’s when you create things out of various materials, like plastic or even metal. You just input a design into the 3-D printer, sit back, and wait until it’s done. In the early days of this technology, many of us weren’t putting it to good use. We’d print off little models of Game of Thrones characters or swords to hang on the wall. Luckily, the scientists have now stepped in, and 3-D printing is helping to benefit humankind.
Researchers from Northwestern University in the U.S. see 3-D printing as a way to recreate damaged organs. Their work focuses specifically on a reproductive organ: the ovaries. Many women lose or damage their ovaries due to cancer and other sicknesses. So the big question is: How can their ovaries be replaced? Using ovaries from another human is medically possible, but it can be dangerous. Bodies can reject a new organ from another person, and the patient can get sick and even die. Here’s where 3-D printing can help make a difference.
The research team sought to prove their theory by experimenting on mice. First, they created little 3-D printed ovaries and implanted them in female mice. Then they had the mice mate with male mice. Three of their test subjects got pregnant and later had healthy babies. And just to be sure, the researchers waited for their children to give birth as well. All of the births went off without a hitch, meaning the procedure has no long-term side effects.
Following their first success, the team at Northwestern University is looking ahead to experiments on pigs. Pigs pose some different challenges because they have larger ovaries. If that experiment is successful, they might move on to humans. In another ten years, who knows what kinds of organs we’ll be making with our 3-D printers.