- West Point pre-med students are doing research that could lead to the 3D printing of “bio bandages” and small body parts.
- So-called “bio printers” could print things such as bone cartilage and blood vessels the same way regular 3D printers print solid objects.
- The research is still in the early phases but could have applications for soldiers wounded in battle.
Cadets at the U.S. Army’s West Point service academy are working with bio printers to determine the feasibility of one day printing body parts. The parts, printed with stem cells, could quickly adapt to a soldier’s body, preventing rejection of the printed body part. Such parts could include blood vessels, meniscus cartilage, and other minor parts.
Five teams of cadets—26 cadets in all—are working on three bio printing projects. The first two teams are working to develop bio-bandages for burn and wound care. Bio-bandages would be printed by medical teams using cells from a wounded soldier. These would be combined with 3D printed skin and stem cells to produce a quick-healing bandage with less of a possibility of scarification in the wound area.
The next two teams are working on how to produce blood vessels capable of carrying blood. The blood vessel project is useful by itself but also seen as a precursor to eventually printing blood-carrying organs. Another team is developing a working meniscus, a thick piece of cartilage that sits between the thigh bone and shinbone. The last team is working on the project’s most ambitious effort, printing a human liver.