The future is always beyond our sight; in many cases it exceeds our wildest expectations.
Just short weeks ago, we learned of 3D printing techniques, utilizing digitized information from computerized sources, being used to create small hand-guns that would fire real bullets. Not auspicious, but interesting.
Today it comes to light that scientists from Princeton University and from Massachusetts General Hospital have learned to “print” a fully functional and customizable human ear. Thomas Cervantes, of Massachusetts General Hospital and his group used polydimethylsiloxane, a silicone compound, to create a two piece mold, and to generate a realistic appearing and operational human ear. Utilizing this technique, such ears can be custom designed to specific users on a rapid timescale.
Princeton researchers, led by Michael McAlpine, used the 3D printing sciences to build a scaffold of cells and nanoparticles, producing a human ear incredibly able to hear frequencies beyond those heard by the natural ear. The McAlpine team used cells from cows, and silicone mixed with silver; the silver particles formed a coil antennae allowing the ear to receive sounds amplified and transmitted by radio waves. As the printing completed, with ten weeks of cultivation time, the ear was fleshy to sight and feel, and formed hard tissue around the coil antenna.
Could these steps be the forward guard of a new an unanticipated new plateau of medicine? May there come a day, when bodily organs — livers, hearts — might be replicated to specific patients in need? Will stem-cell research play a part in a new-era of non-rejected transplants of organs and limbs?
Before we reject such future science thinking, we might consider that 50 short years ago a “computer” was a high sounding device which read, by springy wires, the holes in IBM cards, and transmitted the data to elaborate printers.
Alpha-numeric characters, and a narrow range of functions were all registered in these cards, and such was the state of the art. Yet today, we have at our fingertips access to every speck of information, old and new, in the world. We’ve come a long way.
Imagine one more short step. With far more micro-aware 3D printers, perhaps the very contents of human brain cells, with the cells themselves, may be subject to replication. Imagine! A few moments of printing, and an exact duplicate of a single human brain might be formulated, and implantable!