Printing the Human Body



pexels-photo-87584-001Imagine replacing an amputated arm with a perfect replica, or swapping a diseased kidney with a freshly printed, healthy organ.

It may sound like sci-fi, but at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne a group of biologists, material scientists, biomedical engineers and robotic experts are coming together to make that happen. The Advanced Biofabrication Centre, launched in October, is set to take bionic research and regenerative medicine to the next level.

Cancers, trauma or degeneration can lead to severe disabilities which affect a patient’s ability to live independently and continue a productive working life. The cost is not only physical and psychological – in Australia alone these disabilities are estimated to cost $34.2 billion per year.

What if limbs, tissues and nerves could be engineered from scratch?

Researchers at the Advanced Biofabrication Centre hope to combine capabilities, clinical and research expertise to build biological structures such as organs, bones, brain, muscle, nerves and glands – almost anything that requires repair following disease or physical trauma.

The Centre will let researchers and clinicians explore the real-time development and production of replacement body parts, which could be surgically implanted into patients. Their aim is to eventually 3D print implants in real-time, while a patient is in surgery. img_9678

The Advanced Biofabrication Centre is a flagship initiative in the development of the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery. This is an ambitious endeavour, but the Centre’s partners envisage a hub of collaboration which fuses medicine, engineering, science and industry – all to revolutionise medical solutions to chronic health problems.

Check out what else is happening at St Vincent’s Hospital here.

Above: Ms Brenda Shanahan, Chair of the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery Steering Committee, being shown the Mako surgical robot by Prof Peter Choong at the Advanced Biofabrication Centre launch.