RepRap, is there anything you can’t do? The University of Pennsylvania announced they have managed to fabricate living tissue using a modified RepRap. (When is a RepRap never modified?) As if self-replicating machines aren’t scary enough, let’s have them making organic matter too. But this is great news for those in dire need of an organ, blood, or a slab of skin. And does these foretell ‘Bio-CAD’ software coming to your desktop. Suddenly, Tin Man and Straw Man don’t have much worry about.

Your Dog Wants 3D Printed Steak

Because he’s a militant animal rights activist. If researchers get the mix right, perfectly marbled meat prints may not be too far off.

Researchers are hopeful that new advances in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine could one day make a replacement liver from a patient’s own cells, or animal muscle tissue that could be cut into steaks without ever being inside a cow. Bioengineers can already make 2D structures out of many kinds of tissue, but one of the major roadblocks to making the jump to 3D is keeping the cells within large structures from suffocating; organs have complicated 3D blood vessel networks that are still impossible to recreate in the laboratory.

The latest leaps in Bioengineering have come from depositing cells and nutrients in a orderly fashion. Already Dr. Anthony Atala has been working on ‘Bioprinting’ over the past decade. Already his team has created kidneys and bladders. Yet, the organs within your body are not created layer by layer. They are, shall we say, a bit more ‘integrated’ than that. The leap in bio-printing advancement achieved by the UPenn team is akin to the lost-wax method of casting. They used their Reprap to 3D print a sugar-based material for the cells to munch on. After the cells cover the entire print, the remaining sugar is removed and violá, you have fresh, vascularized tissue (aka, tissue with capillaries and veins and such).

Mmmmm, mouthwatering. If you’re still a little flummoxed, watch this video provided by UPenn.

YouTube video

One has to wonder if this type of technology will reach a point where AutoDesk. Dassault or another software developer will see a market for ‘Bio-CAD’ applications. AutoDesk Organs? Perhaps BioCAD for SolidWorks? For food applications, perhaps AutoChef? Can Solidsmack readers give us a better name for a program that you would use to design human organs or food?