Need a skin graft? A new trachea? A heart patch? Turn on your printer, and let it spit one out.
With artificial hearts, hips, cochlear implants, and more -- all fairly routine today -- what might be called "bionic humans" are walking around already. But this is just the beginning.
Led by University of Missouri-Columbia biological physics professor Gabor Forgacs and aided by a $5 million National Science Foundation grant, researchers at three universities have developed bio-ink and bio-paper that could make so-called organ printing a reality.
So far, they've made tubes similar to human blood vessels and sheets of heart muscle cells, printed in three dimensions on a special printer.
"I think this is going to be a biggie," said Glenn D. Prestwich, the University of Utah professor who developed the bio-paper. "A lot of things are going to be a pain in the butt to print, but I think we can do livers and kidneys as well."
Prestwich guessed initial human organ printing may be five or 10 years away.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: science fiction is becoming science fact.